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Summary: What to learn as The Passion of the Christ movie opens on Ash Wednesday.

Did you hear about the lady who shut down the US and Canadian border? Apparently Canadian customs officials found a grenade in the glove compartment of a 28-year-old woman¡¦s Ford Explorer as she crossed the border on last Monday. Due to the current tensions re: terrorist activities, this created an hour or so shutdown of the border. She was actually trying to get to Vancouver WA but wounded up heading to Vancouver BC!

How did she get such a "wrong idea" and ended up severely traumatized as a result? It got a lot of people upset too, I bet, who had to endure the hour long shutdown of one the busiest border crossings. I believe some of us, as we observe this coming season of Lent may be similarly traumatized if we don¡¦t get the right information and get steered away from Christ.

My purpose this morning is to give to you some insight into the Passion, Ash Wednesday and Lent. For those of us who grew up in non-liturgical churches, like me, we have little or no exposure to words like Lent or Ash Wednesday. Some people may ask you why or why do you not observe these times as a result of the Passion of the Christ movie. They may ask this - aren¡¦t all Christians supposed to follow the Christian calendar? They may want to know more of the meaning behind those words that may be unfamiliar to you which non-believers think you ought to know.

Furthermore, this coming week or weeks perhaps a number of you will be heading to the movies for Mel Gibson¡¦s The Passion of the Christ which opens right on Feb 25th i.e. Ash Wednesday. As a result, some attention may be warranted here. Based on the media attention it is getting, it looks like it¡¦s going to be a really big success at the box-office. And so even Christians may want to brush up on what the season of Lent is all about.

So what is ¡§Ash Wednesday¡¨? Here are some particulars about that day that you may or may not know: (source: Jo H. Lewis and Gordon A. Palmer, What Every Christian Should Know, 1989, p.64)

„h It is the first day of a season called ¡§Lent¡¨ in the liturgical church year.

„h Lent is the period of forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter.

„h The forty days are a reminder of the time Jesus fasted in the wilderness.

„h It is one of the oldest observations, early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) apparently wrote of observing Lent and it lasted for two or three days (Ted Olsen, ¡§The Beginning of Lent¡¨, 2/19/99 article on Christianitytoday.com)

„h Scripture lessons that reminded people of their sinfulness and therefore the need for grace are emphasized.

„h Liturgical Christians enter into a season of penitence and preparation for the Holy Week and Easter.

„h The name comes from the ancient practice of applying ashes to the forehead to symbolize the truth - ¡§Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.¡¨ See Genesis 3:19.

„h The ashes are a sign of repentance and sorrow for sin.

So why don¡¦t some Christian people make a big deal of it? Perhaps the key reason some don¡¦t - is the teaching we receive from the New Testament:

¡§¡KGod made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross¡K Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however is found in Christ.¡¨ Colossians 2:13-17 (NIV)

¡§God made you alive with Christ¡¨ ¡V speaking of the work of Christ on the cross, which has the effect or result ¡§He forgave us all our sins.¡¨ That tells us there is no need to add more to our religious works or deeds. All sin is forgiven, hence there is no need for additional outward religious observances to curry favor with God. Jesus said the work is finished, a done deal (Jn.19:30).

There is no need for people to rack their brains to know if there is more to be done, like observing Lent or Ash Wednesday to ensure that we are right with God. There is no need to be nervous about God anymore. Every time I cross the border, I am nervous, what if the customs just had his wife ream him out, he¡¦s having a bad day and desires to take his frustration out on me??? What if he just want to tick me off because he may be a racist? With God, there is no need to be nervous anymore.

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