Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21
As a child, I can recall attending Ash Wednesday Service each year with my family. Growing up in the 1960s through 1970s, I was being formed spiritually in the era of the “Social Gospel.” Even Ash Wednesday was seen by our young pastor as an opportunity to call believers to action for some good and worthy social justice cause. It was my friends of the Roman Catholic faith who would return from Catechism bearing the ashes of their humanity upon their foreheads. I wondered then at this difference in the way Ash Wednesday was approached by each of our churches. As time passed and my Church received a new pastoral appointment, the service began to change. More and more of the traditions and rituals of the historic church began to appear. Soon, my Church was also observing the ritual of the ashes as a sign of our human weakness.
I have come to believe, over the course of my pastoral experience, that the observance of ashes on Ash Wednesday is an important and meaningful ritual of our faith life. Ashes remind us that we have been physically formed from the earth, even as we have been spiritually transformed by our faith in Christ Jesus. Owning our human weakness and our need for grace is humbling. It reminds us that even in our technologically advance society, we are still in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and restoration.
Perhaps there is no time like our present time for us to own and understand our human condition. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it is that we do not have all of the answers to life—we are not in control. Thankfully, people of faith can rest upon the assurance that God understands our need and is with us—even on this journey into the unknown. The only constant has been constant change. But God speaks to us out of the chaos. We have blessed comfort in time of need and a peace that passes human understanding. It comes to us in the form of Jesus. His life is our example for living. His death was for the atonement of our sin and failure. His resurrection shows us how powerful is this love of God for us—it conquers even sin and death. We now know that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus. So let us enter into this season of Lent with the confidence of God’s forgiven people. As we engage in self-discovery, know that there is nothing about you that God does not already know, and God loves you still. Remember that we have been formed from the dust of the earth; but raised to new life in Christ Jesus. So, may your Lenten journey be a blessed one. Amen.
Invitation to Lenten Discipline:
Lent is a time for us to be reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the need we all have to renew our faith. I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, let us now humble ourselves before our maker and Redeemer, reminded of our need for grace by the symbol of ashes signifying our humanity, let us repent of our sins and believe the Gospel.
And so, may almighty and merciful God accept your repentance, forgive your sins, and restore you by the Holy Spirit to newness of life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
And now may the peace of Christ guard your heart and mind from this time forth and forever. Amen.
“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”
(words-Claudia Hernaman, music-Charles Webb)
Lord, who throughout these forty days for us did fast and pray, teach us with thee to mourn our sins and close by thee to stay.