To proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Christ in the context of relationship, to confront the Church to return to "true truth," and to disciple and encourage people to grow in faith and participate in influencing their culture.
I grew up Roman Catholic and remember that Fridays were fish
days. At school it was normally fish sticks for lunch, especially during Lenten
Season. I didn’t particularly like the season, for it meant fasting some
favorite food or giving up something I liked. Of course, the season began on
Ash Wednesday with a priest putting ashes on the forehead. I remember being
stigmatized by the mark and trying to explain to my Protestant friends why
I was branded.
Now more and more Protestant churches, including Evangelical
ones, are applying ashes on foreheads of their congregants. Now a Protestant
and born again in Christ, I am appalled at the practice. I can understand the
desire of becoming more contemplative leading up to Holy Week and Resurrection
Sunday, but I disdain the thought of becoming more Catholic by doing some things
that the Protestant Reformation abhorred.
The fast and the ritual dusting of ashes predate
Christianity, for many Old Testament people like Job repented “with sackcloth
and ashes.” Originally, the ritual fasting in the early church was associated
with those getting baptized, indicating their penitent nature. The days of
fasting were expanded to 40 days by the 4th century, which
commemorated the suffering of Jesus in the wilderness. Ulrich Zwingli, the
Swiss Reformer, protested against the Catholic Lenten traditions in 1522 by
defending Swiss printers who had complained about abstaining from meat when
they needed the protein for strength to work hard. Zwingli complained that the
rules of Lent were more about obeying Rome’s traditions than supporting the
gospel, which he said had nothing to do with eating sausages in the weeks
Martin Luther also cautioned against obeying the rules and
traditions of Lent with a view to meriting something from it. He said that
Catholic teachings falsely promoted the idea that fasting and good works could
eradicate sin and earn points toward salvation. John Calvin in his Institutes
of the Christian Religion criticized Lent as a “superstitious observance.” The
increase in Lenten observance by Protestants could be born out of guilt, for
non-participation in events leading up to Holy Week may plague the conscience
of the righteous—or should I say the self-righteous.
Although ashes are used in the Old Testament to indicate
sorrow and repentance of the penitent, they are not ritualized in the New
Testament as a ceremony of ablution. The purification of the believer has already
occurred through the blood of Christ. Ashes and fish sticks are the stuff of
Catholic folklore to which I say “fiddlesticks.” It is nonsense and the stuff
Proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Christ in the context of relationship, to confront the Church to return to "truetruth,"andtodiscipleandencouragepeopletogrowinfaithandparticipateininfluencingtheirculture.