Wednesday, February 10, 2016 is a very important date. Wednesday has become known as “Hump Day” in the 21st Century, because it is in the middle of the week. “Hump Day” means that half of the work week is over and only the other half of the work week is left. This is an example of “seeing the glass half full” kind of thinking. However, this Wednesday is more than the middle of the week. In fact, this Wednesday marks two special “Holidays” and this may only happen once in our lifetime. This Wednesday, people all over New England and the world celebrate Truck Day and Ash Wednesday! Before you think I am being sacrilegious, please let me explain.
Truck Day marks the start of a new beginning, when Red Sox fans forget about last year and anticipate spring and a brand new baseball season. When fans see the huge truck pulling up to Fenway Park and boxes and boxes of baseball equipment being loaded up into it, they know that baseball is not far away. But, before real baseball games can be played, the equipment truck and RED SOX players head to Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training. [Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 18th and on February 24th is when position players arrive and the first full squad workout is scheduled.] Some players are already at Spring Training.]
The equipment truck leaving Fenway is a reminder to all and to the players especially, that they need to refocus on Baseball. They need to get into baseball shape by being disciplined in eating healthy foods and performing exercise drills and baseball drills. Pitchers and catchers work on getting to know each other, in order to be in sync when they play for real, as do the position players and coaches. All players need to practice their positions on the field. They need to practice hitting, catching, running bases, stealing bases, bunting and sacrificing, as though everything is new to them, in order to get rid of the winter rust. Spring Training games start on February 29th to further work on baseball skill and regain muscle memory. All this hard work is in anticipation of OPENING DAY [April 4th, in Cleveland] when they here those magic words, “PLAY BALL!” The RED SOX players are also motivated to work hard by looking forward to achieving the end goal: winning the World Series in the post season. After playing 162 games, players want to play more games to win the ultimate prize in baseball.
As an avid Baseball [Red Sox] fan since 1967, I have the habit of equating the game of baseball to my spiritual life, as well as my life in general. I see many parallels between Ash Wednesday and Truck Day. The parallels do not make each event equally important. However, Truck Day does explain the importance of Ash Wednesday to me. As I wrote in a previous blog post, “Life is Baseball is Life!”
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Season of Lent, which lasts for forty days, not counting Sundays. The meaning of Ash Wednesday is a reminder to Christians of their need for Jesus’ saving grace. “Ashes to ashes” means “We come from dust; we return to dust” without the power of God to save us. The term “Ashes to ashes” comes from the 1661 version Book of Common Prayer and used is used even now for funeral services. The origin of the term comes from Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and dust you shall return.” Realizing that we are only ashes and dust is only half of the story of Ash Wednesday. The other half is realizing “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust” [Psalm 103:13]. Ash Wednesday helps to refocus on who we are, who God is and how much Jesus has done for us.
“For our sakes [God the Father] made [God the Son, Jesus] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” [II Corinthians 5:21].
During the Forty Days of Lent, Christians take time to reflect on Jesus’ time on earth, His death on the cross, His Resurrection and His Second Coming. One of the first things He did was spend time, before starting His ministry, in the desert fasting and praying and He was tempted by the devil [Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13] for forty days. In the Gospel accounts, believers find Jesus using Scripture to fight off temptation. Jesus does not succumb to wanting to satisfy Himself with food or riches or greatness or the temptation to go ahead of God and question His authority . Jesus was able to do what no one else could never do and that’s why Christians have hope: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted [Hebrews 2:18].
During Ash Wednesday and throughout the Forty Days of Lent, Christians everywhere practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, seeking forgiveness and forgiving, spending time in solitude and Bible reading, giving of their time and money to serve others. Christians do these things, not to gain salvation, but to realize what a great salvation they have already been given through Christ the Lord. As they renew their “spiritual memory” by refocusing on these disciplines, believers grow into a closer relationship with God and joyfully anticipate celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and look forward to His glorious Second Coming, when they will receive their PRIZE. Let Christians everywhere be encouraged on Ash Wednesday to find peace, bear fruit in their lives, be thankful and to “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14].
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Hebrews 13:20-21].
Have a Blessed Ash Wednesday!
‘Nuf sed” for now.