Lent Symbols: Sackcloth

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LENT: VISUAL SYMBOLS OF WORSHIP

During the 40 days of Lent, Christians around the globe remember the sacrifices of Jesus Christ – in setting aside His eternal nature to become human; and in His willing submission of His will in deference to His Father’s will, becoming “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8, ESV). It is a time of repentance, reflection, and personal sacrifice, many believers committing to give up some activity or indulgence during Lent to more fully identify with Jesus’ sacrifices. Pennway’s Worship Design Team has been working hard to design signs and symbols of the Lenten Season. Each week, I will highlight some of these visual reminders in this blog. In this world with its endless distractions and shiny objects that pull for our affections, it is my prayer that these symbols of Lent will pull you back to worship our savior Jesus Christ.

Close-up view of sackcloth texture for background

We have incorporated a representation of the crucifixion scene as part of our Lenten décor in the Sanctuary. You will notice the two thieves’ crosses are draped in sackcloth. We see sackcloth used in scripture to represent deep sorrow, penitence and devotion. In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh wore sackcloth as a sign of their sorrow at the coming judgment of God. It was their repentance that stayed God’s hand. Scripture often shows sackcloth paired with ashes, another biblical symbol of penitence. Jesus reprimanded the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida, saying, “if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (Luke 10:13, ESV)

I am not suggesting that one should don a sackcloth wardrobe to show one’s penitent spirit. Jesus was quite clear about doing acts of righteousness in a modest manner, not drawing attention to the acts themselves. (Matt. 6:1-8, 16-18) Instead, may we have the attitude of the tax collector who “beat his breast, and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:3, NIV) As King David so beautifully wrote, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

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