Some people will give up red meat for Lent. Others might put aside chocolate or soda for 40 days.
But whatever the sacrifice, area pastors say Lent is a time to reflect on the need to be saved from sin and to do more to strengthen the relationship with God.
On Wednesday, many Jackson County residents attended Ash Wednesday services, marking the beginning of the Lenten season, which runs through Easter Sunday on April 5.
“For us, it’s a time of preparation for Easter, a time to renew our faith,” said Father Dan Staublin of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Seymour.
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St. Ambrose conducted two services Wednesday, one in the morning and another in the evening, for members of its congregation to observe Lenten traditions.
During Ash Wednesday services, it’s customary to receive the marking of the cross on the forehead with ashes. Those ashes often are made from burning the dried palm fronds used for Palm Sunday services the previous year.
The ashes and the symbol of the cross on the forehead are to remind us that is the way we are being led, to follow the cross, Staublin said.
Pastor Ralph Blomenberg at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour said along with the ashes, it’s important to understand the accompanying words that are said during the service.
“‘You are dust and to dust you will return’ reminds us that because of sin, we have to face death, but because Jesus suffered and died, he takes away our sin,” Blomenberg said. “It’s a sign of repentance.”
Ash Wednesday services usually are well-attended because people want to start out Lent on the right foot, Staublin added.
Many adults and children lined up at St. Ambrose Wednesday morning to receive the ashes.
“At the beginning of Lent, people have a fervor to commit themselves, kind of like at New Year’s. People want to stick to it,” Staublin said.
The snow and cold temperatures, however, kept some people from getting out Wednesday, he said.
Seymour received around three inches of snow early Wednesday morning, adding to the six or so inches already on the ground. All area schools were canceled for the third day in a row.
Brenda Klosterman of Dudleytown said she had planned to go to St. John’s Lutheran Church Sauers on Wednesday but made other plans after the church canceled the service because of the weather.
After receiving the ashes at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seymour, Klosterman said she felt humbled by the experience.
“It makes me think about all the wonderful things God does for us that we don’t deserve,” she said.
According to the Bible, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness, where he endured temptations from the devil. Lent is a way for Christians to commemorate that time, said Pastor Andrew Currao of Redeemer.
That is why many people choose to fast on Ash Wednesday and give up something, such as food or a habit, during Lent to remind them of the sacrifices made by Jesus to take away our sins, Currao said.
“We see it as a solemn time to reflect on our sinfulness before God and on our true need for a Savior from sin,” he said. “And therefore looking to Jesus as our savior from sin, death and the power of Hell.”
Besides Ash Wednesday, many churches also are offering midweek Lenten services Wednesday nights leading up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
Klosterman said she always gives up something during Lent and tries to make it challenging.
“This year, it’s going to be bread and potatoes,” she said.
But she also tries to take more time to slow down and appreciate God’s blessings.
“I’m trying to be more aware of the great life I have and not taking things for granted,” she said.
Rexanne Ude of Seymour said she planned to attend Central Christian Church’s service Wednesday evening, but it was canceled, too.
Instead of taking away something, Ude said she adds things to her life to make Lent even more meaningful.
“I have stopped giving something up and started adding positive aspects to my daily routine,” she said.
This year, she is committing to pray daily, add more fruits and vegetables to her meals, exercise at least three times a week and find something to be thankful for each day.
Staublin said during Lent, people should take time to reflect on their faith and what they can do to better serve the Lord.
“We need to think about how we stand before God and what God is asking of us,” he said. “It’s traditional to increase our prayer, make sacrifices and do works of charity.”
For example, money you might use to buy something you want could be donated to a local food pantry or to help someone else out, Staublin said.
Or if you’re giving up something like spending too much time on Facebook, he recommends spending that time with family or reading the Bible instead.
“Lent is an opportunity to grow outside of ourselves and become more faithful, to pray more and be more connected to church,” he said.