Today begins our season of Lent. Tonight, at our Ash Wednesday service beginning at 7:00 p.m., we will enter into a time of preparation for the coming of Easter. So, why exactly do we put ashes on our foreheads? Traditionally, it goes back to practices that Christians have used to symbolize penitence and mourning for our sins. I have to admit that those things seem somewhat 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 we all 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 our Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 p.m. I also want to ask you to come this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. in the Great Hall for a wonderfully inspirational presentation by our recent Mission Team to the DR. I believe both will be well worth your time!