The Church is on a 40-day journey called Lent. Starting on Ash Wednesday and continuing through the eve of the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, many Christians all over the world will set aside these days before Easter for spiritual self-examination, prayerful self-denial, and renewed devotion to Jesus. There is nothing one might do in Lent that couldn’t or shouldn’t be done any other day in the year. However, many of us find it all too easy to float along in the current of life and completely neglect our relationship with Jesus. From time to time we might pause and realize that we need to evaluate our daily time with God or how much time we do or don’t give to the service of others or whether we have so neglected God that we hardly ever think of him. Life keeps coming at us with such a severe urgency that we quickly relegate whatever awareness we had about our spiritual journey to the back corner of life’s closet only to be forgotten once again.
We need Lent. Or Examination Season. Or Heart Check Time. Call it whatever you want, we all need to take time to reflect, repent and be renewed.
More about Ash Wednesday
Ashes are the product of fiery destruction. They remind us of utter ruin and emptiness. They also are a grotesque and disfigured remnant of what once was. As a result, they have been used throughout history to place on one’s head as a reminder of the grim reality of our sinful disobedience, the devastating consequence of choosing death over life, and the judgement that awaits all who have rebelled against a loving, holy, and just Creator.
The six and a half week season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. On this day, followers of Christ are invited to gather in community to hear again the remarkable call to relationship with the living God. At the same time, we are challenged to consider our own participation in the response of disobedience to and rejection of God which is demonstrated universally by every person who has ever lived – save one. We are reminded of the absolute necessity of practicing an often uncomfortable honesty with ourselves in order to come to terms with who we truly are. And we are offered the opportunity to acknowledge this publicly by coming forward to have ashes placed on our foreheads under the solemn declaration, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
As morbid as it all may sound, it is actually liberating. The ashes are smeared with the sign of the cross as a reminder that Jesus indeed is the one, the only one, who brings life out of death. Our public demonstration of acknowledging our self-obtained ruin is painted upon our foreheads with the glorious image of what Jesus has done to save us from our sin.