On Ash Wednesday (2013)
This only my second Ash Wednesday, I would like to share some of my thoughts about it and my hopes for Lent season this year.
This is the second year I post my reflections on the Lent 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 comments. This blog is a tool for my growth and sharing that growth with others in conversation on what it means to be a Christian today.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the lent season a time we are reminded that it is not about us that our life as a Christian is meant to be a sacrament and a blessing for others. In the lent season, we take a closer look at sin, where we have failed to live up to our calling, and all the ways block and not respond to the amazing love of God. We wander away from God, we break God’s commandments, we distort Jesus’ teachings to serve our own ends, we fail to trust God’s promises, and we refuse mercy, grace, light, truth, and beauty. 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 Christianity? It is in our temptations that we grow the most and come closer to Jesus, 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.
Rev. Emily C. Heath writes, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. What used to be a heart-stopping reminder for me has instead become a moment of refocusing. In the big scheme of things, who we are as individuals is finite and fleeting. But who we are together, and who we are to God, is what matters, and what truly defines us, even when we are gone. In Lent, we remember the great truth: It’s not all about us. Each Lent I feel myself called back to community, both human and divine, by that message. And when that calling comes, so does the reminder of those two commands of Christ: Love God and love others as you love yourself.”
On Ash Wednesday, all who have received God’s mercy come in repentance and remembrance. 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 to be the people of God. Ash Wednesday and lent are powerful reminders 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 and what he does.
A common scripture for Ash Wednesday is Joel 2:1-18. The part of this scripture passage that speaks the most to me is 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. This is a passionate call to repent of our old ways and come to Christ; it speaks about the importance of coming together and being the body of Christ. It is important to see the ways we have been less than God made us to be and calling us back to the heart of the Christian faith. Our Christian life should matter, it should change the way we live. How we live once we trust in Jesus should be different from before.
We should not simply tear our garments or physical objects but tear our heart by looking deep at our deplorable behavior, not running 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.
In the imposition of ashes, we came to the altar to receive our ashes and blessing. We receive the mark of the cross and count it as a blessing. This is similar to receiving communion. It is to take the time to pray or be in silence as we reflect on what it means to receive the ashes. I usually do this. Last year, as I tried to do this 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. Pray is as much if not more about the attitude as closing eyes and clasping hands.
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 want to leave you with words from Rev. Emily C. Heath.
This Lent I’m giving myself a challenge. I’m calling it my Lenten “It’s Not About Me” Challenge. Here’s how it works: Each day I want to do at least one thing that either strengthens my connection with God, or shows my love for my neighbor. What I’m advocating isn’t about creating additional burdens. It’s about being more conscious of what we are already doing, and using our time in a way that connects us with others and with the Holy other. When we start doing that, the daily walk turns into an opportunity for prayer. We don’t have to turn the world on its axis. We simply have to turn our attention outward, and make the small things matter in big ways.
Grace and Peace