On Ash Wednesday

This Wednesday night I went to Ash Wednesday service at my church. It was only my second Ash Wednesday service. I would like to share some of my thoughts about it and my hopes for Lent season this year.

This will the second year that I have taken the spirit of Lent seriously and the first year I post my reflections on the season publicly. As with everything on this blog, it is my thoughts and feelings not the be all and end all of anything. Simply part of the larger conversation and should be seen as such. If you disagree ok, pushback let me hear your thoughts. I enjoy reading what my readers think.

The Associate pastor began the service by explaining Ash Wednesday and personalizing the temptations of Jesus and pointing how each of us face similar temptations. We are all tempted by something and must chose to either give into the temptation or resist it. In succumbing to or resisting the temptation lies our Christian commitment. If we give in can we honestly say that we are being true to our Christianity? It is in our temptations that we grow the most and come closer to our Lord and Savior. We should not worry that we are alone, because God is with us always and in all things. On our own, we have a slim chance, but with God all things are possible. That leaves nothing out.

On Ash Wednesday, all who have received God’s mercy come in repentance. God calls us to repent and come before the cross of Christ and at the cross; we are made clean and called into the family of God.

A Hymn: Out of Bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus I come

Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light Jesus I come

Out of my selfishness, wanting, and greed

Lord, I will follow wherever You lead

Into the joy and light of your home I come

This hymn is powerful, especially on Ash Wednesday. It helps us see that we can step out of our bondage, sorrow, shame, failure, fear, and brokenness into the light, joy, grace and love of Jesus. Jesus welcomes us no matter who we are or what we have done. We can call ourselves chief of sinners, but Jesus will call us friend, brother, sister and welcome us into his Kingdom not for anything we have done, but because of what he did.

The prayer of confession was next. At the traditional service each week, we say a prayer of confession, for some this is an annoyance for others it’s a very meaningful part. It acknowledges that we sin and have fallen short of the glory and blessing God intended for us. We ask Our Lord to forgive us and return our focus to the cross, to turn our ways back to God’s ways that we might bring honor and blessing to His Holy name. As always we lift our prayers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The most meaningful hymn we sung that night is also my favorite old-time hymn ‘Just As I Am.’ This song is a beautiful poem to coming to Jesus as we are without one plea and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot. We sing O Lamb of God, I come! I come! This is an excellent song is a call to renewal and a call to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Singing this song reminds us of our conversion experience and helps us to renew our response to the cross of Christ.

The message the senior pastor shared with us was drawn from Joel 2:1-18. The part of this scripture passage that spoke the most to me was Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing. My pastor gave a passionate talk about repenting of our old ways and coming to Christ, about the importance of coming together and being the body of Christ. He opened up this section of scripture by illustrating the importance of seeing the ways we have been less than God made us to be and calling us back to the heart of the Christian faith.

We should not simply tear our garments or physical objects but tear our heart by looking deep at our deplorable behavior, not run from making amends or improving ourselves. We come before God accept the love and grace offered free of charge. However, we must also face the things we have done and face the results of our sin. By becoming more and more of the person we are meant to be, we inherit life, love, and all the blessings God created us to enjoy forever.

Then, the imposition of ashes, we came to the altar to receive our ashes and blessing. This is similar to receiving communion and some took the time afterwards to pray or be in silence as the reflected on what it meant to receive the ashes. I usually do this, but the lady sitting next to me engaged me in conversation and instead of praying, I talked with another person. This can be a form of prayer if we can see the divine in the other person and treat them as we would if Jesus were before us than we are engaging in prayer.

My hope this Lent is to live life fully, to be in the world and not of it, to be a reflection of Jesus to the world. I hope this not just for myself, but for you too. May we all be all we were made to be for the good of all.

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