Today begins the season of Lent. Tonight at our Ash Wednesday service (beginning at 7:00 p.m. after dinner at 6:00 p.m.) we will enter into a period of time in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. So, why do we put ashes on our foreheads?
Traditionally, it goes back to practices that Christians have used for centuries to symbolize penitence and mourning for our sins. I have to admit that those things seem so out of touch with our world today. How many of us even know exactly what the word "penitence" means? And "mourning" our sins? Most of the time I see people celebrating their sins -- or at least challenging anyone who calls anything a sin anymore.
But, maybe that's exactly why we need something like Ash Wednesday - to remind us of something important we may have forgotten. We do this not to beat up on ourselves in some masochistic way, but to admit we all have missed the mark and need some help to find our way back home.
I like the way the writer Anne Lamott talks honestly about her experience of Ash Wednesday:
Ash Wednesday came early this year. It is supposed to be about preparation, about consecration, about moving toward Easter, toward resurrection and renewal. It offers us a chance to break through the distractions that keep us from living the basic Easter message of love, of living in wonder rather than doubt. For some people, it is about fasting, to symbolize both solidarity with the hungry and the hunger for God. (I, on the other hand, am not heavily into fasting; the thought of missing even a single meal sends me running in search of Ben and Jerry's Mint Oreo.) (From Traveling Mercies)
I hope you will make time in your busy schedule to join us tonight at JCPC for dinner at 6 p.m. But, if you can't make dinner - to at least come to the Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 p.m. I believe it will be worth your time.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we are so busy. Maybe one reason we are so busy is so that we don't have to slow down enough to think about life. So, help us to slow down today, tonight, and in the coming days -- that we might find rest and renewal for our souls. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.