ON Wednesday this week Christians all over the world manifested the beginning of Lent- the Ash Wednesday.
Christians all over the world took time off their busy schedules to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass at different churches. Personally, I attended at Mbezi Louis Lutheran church. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church and other big churches, Protestants observe Ash Wednesday differently.
The act of having ashes placed on the foreheads of believers in the shape of a cross is not part of the Lutheran church tradition because it believes that they have to walk by faith and not sight, trusting in God’s means for believers spiritual growth.
The Protestants spiritual belief is therefore rooted on the ground that, “We cannot earn an ounce of righteousness through our works or deeds. This was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, which is by grace alone.
We do nothing to merit favour from God, either before we are saved or after we are saved.” It’s the intention of this piece to dwell into the nitty-gritty of who amongst the many church denominations or sects observe the Ash Wednesday precisely but rather to acknowledge its existence of faith and to emphasize the importance of Ash Wednesday to Christian believers. Worth noting, we remain human despite our differences in gender, looks, beliefs, understanding, economic as well as education status and geographical locations.
You might be aware that over the years, we have been confronted by racial tensions, divergent views of morality, religious differences or coarse rhetoric but we have remained solid. Humanity has always been at the core of our existence and relationship to God.
An excerpt from Refine the Mind, acknowledges that human race is extraordinarily diverse in so many ways. Gender, ethnicity, race, class, religion, nationality, sexuality, philosophy and lifestyle.
The areas in which we differ are endless. Yet, at a basic level, we are all of the same human species. We experience highs and lows in life and strive to be happy and fulfilled. Our common pains and joys are what bring us together, but our diversity makes us unique.
In addition, Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day that is not a biblical requirement (just like Christmas and Easter, which are not commanded in Scripture). Nevertheless, it has been honoured by Christians for well over ten centuries, falling at the beginning of Lent, a sixweek season of preparation for Easter.
In the earliest centuries, Christians who had been stuck in persistent sin had ashes sprinkled on their bodies as a sign of repentance, even as Job repented “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Around the tenth century, all believers began to signify their need for repentance by having ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.
The Roman Catholic Church practice that todate. Importantly, the blessed ashes are usually “imposed” on the faithful’s foreheads as a sign of conversion, penance, fasting and human mortality. This did not happen to me and other Protestants who attended the mass on Wednesday. We were, however, empowered by the word of God from Isaiah 1 and specifically verse 18-20.
“Come now and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.
If you are willing to and obedient you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel you will be devoured by the sword.” Ash Wednesday and Lent therefore remind Christians all over the world to repent, fast, practice compassion and show by deeds what the Lord Jesus Christ has taught them throughout the years.
By faith, all Christians are therefore expected to exercise humility, devotion and sanctity. The theological core of Ash Wednesday is, however, shaped by a biblical theology of creation, sin, mortality, death, grace, and salvation. It also enacts biblical injunctions to “weep with those who weep” and to “confess your sins to one another.
” But why the heck? Can we live without practicing religion or committing to a particular faith? Are we so vulnerable that we cannot live without religion? Why must we observe religious values and principles?
Does placing of an ash (cross) on the forehead of a believer make him/her holier than another believer who wasn’t placed? Whichever answers to these questions, we must remember that we are all humans and that we come from one creator- our heavenly father! Ardently, Ash Wednesday coincided with government war on narcotics, a crackdown on fake certificate holders and a ban on sachet-packed liquor (Viroba).
Apparently, the government has imposed heavy penalties of up to three years imprisonment or fines amounting to 5m/- or both on those found consuming, distributing or producing ‘viroba’.
Logically, all Christians of faith are expected to rally behind the government to support her efforts to root out all ‘evils’ during the Lent period and beyond. It will be embarrassing and a disgrace to churches in the country and across the region to hear of her Leaders and followers getting involved in scandals around illicit drugs, production, supplying as well as consumption of banned virobas. During the Ash Wednesday mass, many men of faith were absent. Presumably, they were still in the field ‘hunting’ for the day’s catch.
The church was filled by women of faith who calmly cuddled their young children, the youth and a few old men. Songs and hymns of repentance were sang and scriptures recited in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s fasting, travail and endurance.
The war on narcotics, viroba and fake certificates in our country today calls for headstrong leadership, collective effort and faith to win it. All men and women of faith in this country must therefore come together and give the government the much needed support to make our country a better place for children and youth to live. Children and youth have not been mentioned here accidentally. Ostensibly, they are a target and victims of the ‘harmful’ chemicals.
Sadly, most of those trapped in drugs and alcohol were unaware of the consequences therein. Equally, a crackdown on fake certificate holders should be mounted holistically to prevent the country from being led by meatheads.
Frankly speaking, to me this war is very simple and inexpensive. All it is required is for the employers to hand over relevant copies of certificates of their employees to the relevant organs for authentication.
Once that is done -in honesty and integrity-the nation will be free of ‘Vihiyos’ and that will serve a lesson for generations to come. Lent period should be a period for reflection on our purpose of existing, living, belonging, engaging, following, associating, believing, worshipping, leading, fighting, trusting, learning and doing! It’s a time for soul searching, to annotate and cogitate why God made us different from animals and all other species! At time to ask ourselves what has become of us- why are we behaving senselessly?
Worth noting, a time to confess, be good to others and worship the Lord! Have a great Sato comrades!