Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread."
But Jesus answered, "The scripture says, 'Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.' " Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, 6and said to him, "If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says: 'God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.' " Jesus answered, "But the scripture also says, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. "All this I will give you," the Devil said, "if you kneel down and worship me." Then Jesus answered, "Go away, Satan! The scripture says, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!' "Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.
March this year is the beginning of Lent, for most people it seems to start on Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day as it is more commonly known, but actually Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on the 2nd of March, which starts 40 days of Lent excluding Sundays.
It is not normal within the United Reformed Church, to celebrate Ash Wednesday, but many other traditions do, it is very much a day of prayer, penitence, preparation, and fasting. you can often tell if somebody has been to an Ash Wednesday service, as they will have a cross of ash upon their forehead. Traditionally the ashes come from the burning of the previous years palm crosses, and is a reminder that as we came from dust we will return to dust, symbolizing our sinful nature and need for salvation.
An Ash Wednesday service can be seen as mournful, but it shouldn't be, but as a reminder of our preparation throughout Lent, reminding us of Jesus 40 days in the wilderness, preparing himself for Ministry, and as we use Ash Wednesday and Lent to prepare ourselves for Easter. This time should also be used as a time of reflection to see and hear where God is calling us to be, as we head to the joy of Easter morning.
Rev'd Robert Sheard
United Reformed Church Minister of Stowmarket, Debenham, Stowupland, Mendlesham & Haughley