Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
If I read the above passage rightly, the eviler the day, the wiser we should walk.
And if that is the case, I have some concerns about a practice recently introduced at a number of congregations this year, including one in Cincinnati: Mount Healthy United Methodist Church.
Now I understand Pastor Patricia Anderson Cook was confident she was doing the right thing. Her confidence was based on the fact she had prayed and deliberated about it. She told the news: "I thought about what Jesus would do, and I'm pretty sure He wouldn't require a mass or a worship service. I'm pretty sure He was out there healing people and touching them with His fingers, even healing someone with spit and dirt, and healing their eyes."
Now while Pastor Cook didn't try to imitate the Savior by healing people, she did follow her Lord by not having an Ash Wednesday worship service, either. Instead of asking people to go into church, this past Ash Wednesday Pastor Cook decided to apply ashes to people by allowing them to drive up in their cars.
Yup, you heard that rightly.
On Ash Wednesday, from 5 to 6 p.m., a person could drive up to Mount Healthy United Methodist Church, and the pastor would apply ashes while he or she remained sitting in their car.
It was Pastor Cook's hope this would reach people who might have personal issues, mobility issues or just feel more comfortable worshipping in their cars and trucks. As she said, (my) "Jesus was an outdoors kind of guy. He came to where they (the people) were, and I want to come where people are comfortable."
It occurs to me that Pastor Cook, like so many others, has focused her attention on only one part of the Savior. It is true that Jesus came to people where they were. He worked with them at weddings and at wells, while they sat in a tree in Jericho or when He hung from a tree in Jerusalem. Sadly, too many people forget that when Jesus worked with these people, He didn't leave them as they were; He changed them.
Lent, including Ash Wednesday, is all about change. Lent is one of the times in the church calendar when Christians reflect on their sins and pray they might be given a repentant heart and a changed life. Most of all, Lent is a time to thank the Lord that Jesus left heaven and came to earth, so He might be the God-given sacrifice that would pay for our redemption.
And I'm not sure you can do that by driving up to a church and stopping for a few seconds.
Let me put it this way: if my son gave his life for you, I'd be pretty disappointed if all you did to show your appreciation would be to drive past the funeral home and wave. It would show me that my son's death just wasn't all that important to you. And, that, dear brothers and sisters ought not to be so.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, You became one of us. This You did so we, and our eternal destiny, might be changed. Let us show our appreciation for Your sacrifice. In Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries