Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Wednesday

“I invite you, therefore, to the observance of a holy Lent.” BCP page 265

Ash Wednesday - Lent Begins  

Ash Wednesday is the first of forty days of walking a path to the glory of Easter. Yet we begin with a reminder of our imperfection, our mortality and God’s forgiveness which awaits us. And we do this physically, outwardly and courageously.

Remember when you were baptized and the priest made a cross on your forehead with holy oil? Today that cross is retraced, but with ashes to form the shape of the cross which is our means of eternal life. It’s the same cross and it’s the same invitation. The ashes that signify mortality today signify the immortality promised to us.

Ashes were also an ancient mark of sorrow and repentance. Job marked himself with ashes when God spoke to him, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes,” he said. Job 42:6.

All the people of Nineveh donned sackcloth and ashes when Jonah warned them about their sinful ways. “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” Jonah 3:5-6

Today we do not go to such extremes, but each year our church invites us into this moment of repentance and forgiveness. Ash Wednesday, Lent, and, in fact, the whole Church Year is a way for us, the faithful, to walk with Jesus through his life and ministry, just as he became man to walk with us.

Ashes to Go
You may come across a news item about a new-ish ministry that offers ashes on Ash Wednesday in very public places such as bus terminals and busy street corners. It may surprise, delight or shock you, but this offering could be the one act of worship some of those people perform all year, and who knows where it might lead?