Saturday Sermon: Rediscovering Our Ancient Roots
March 4, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 3, 2011 at 9:04 p.m.
By Rev. David King
An interesting phenomenon is occurring in the Church today. People are beginning to discover their spiritual roots. They are realizing that the Christian Church is like a massive, ancient oak tree.
The new forms of worship, and the new and modern churches sprouting up are all still connected to this ancient oak that has roots deep in the soil of history and spirituality.
People are beginning to discover the value of the ancient spiritual practices such as fasting, Sabbath-observance, different prayer forms, and celebrating significant days in the Christian year.
Some Christian churches have never let them go and have kept them alive, while some others are just waking up to the words of Jeremiah 6:16 - "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
This Wednesday Christians around the world will join together to mark the beginning of the season of Lent with the observance of Ash Wednesday. The Ash Wednesday services feature the imposition or the placing of ashes on the worshiper's forehead as a call to repentance. The use of ashes has deep root in the Bible (see Job 42:3-6; Jeremiah 6:26; and Daniel 9:3).
We are marked with ashes as a reminder of our mortality and that "you are dust, and to dust you shall return," (Genesis 3:19) and as a sign of our sin - our impulse to hide from this fact. The ashes are placed in the shape of a cross, however, to remind us that God so loved us that "he gave his only-begotten Son that we would not perish" in the dust of our death and sin, "but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Traditionally, the ashes come from the palm branches that were used for the previous year's Palm Sunday.
Lent is the 40-day period before Easter (excluding Sundays) in which Christians seek to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection as the central event of salvation. The traditional disciplines of Lent are prayer and meditation, fasting, and alms-giving (see Matthew 6:1-18). Many Christians observe Ash Wednesday by fasting, whether by giving up one meal or going meatless at all meals or by abstaining from food the entire day.
A few years ago, I served a church that had always used the individual little cups for communion. When I began using a common chalice instead of the little cups, someone told me that they didn't like it because it was "too Catholic." Today, people are beginning to realize that the great big massive oak tree of the Christian Church is catholic, meaning "universal." It includes Eastern and Western, Charismatic and High Liturgical, Methodist and Baptist, non-denominational, as well as the denominations. We are all branches of the same beautiful body of Christ, serving the eternal purposes of the eternal God.
The Rev. David King is pastor at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Victoria.