Practices of Lent can move you closer to God

Published 3:54 pm Monday, March 1, 2010

I began to think back to my childhood and tried to think about Ash Wednesday.

I don’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service.

My friends who were Catholic would go to an Ash Wednesday service, but we didn’t.

I knew from seminary that John Wesley didn’t practice Ash Wednesday either.

I started to do some research and found the following that I think gives a good explanation of why the United Methodist Church now recognizes Ash Wednesday.

While many think of actions such as the imposition of ashes, signing with the cross, foot washing and the use of incense as something that only Roman Catholics or high church Episcopalians do, there has been a move among Protestant churches, including United Methodists to recover these more multisensory ways of worship.

This is in keeping with a growing recognition that people have multiple ways of learning and praying.

Worship that is oriented to the intellect or to the emotions, both interior, leaves out those who engage in prayer through vision, smell, touch, movement, etc.

We are increasingly aware that people are formed in faith when practices become embedded in memory, nerves, muscles and bone through sensory engagement.

United Methodists have had resources for worship that include the imposition of ashes since 1979 when “Ashes to Fire” was published as Supplemental Worship Resource 8.

This practice became part of our official worship resources in 1992 when General Conference adopted “The United Methodist Book of Worship” (UMBOW).

It is, of course, optional and no congregation or individual is required to use it.

Other such practices were adopted in 1992: foot washing for Holy Thursday, meditation at the cross for Good Friday and incense for Evening Praise and Prayer.

Whatever way can move you closer to God, do it.

May this Lenten season be one that brings us all closer to Christ.