Ash Wednesday Scriptures:
Ash Wednesday, the Start of Lent
On Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, it's time to take stock of truths
about ourselves that don't sit well in our stomachs. There's one truth in
particular that leaves the people today's world most uneasy: the universe
does not revolve around you. Psalm 103:14, like Ecclesiastes 3:20, reminds us of what we started as. Psalm 51 says that we've become botched up. Amos writes about the two-faced trickery of his generation. Our
self-obsessed era is no different. We were made very good, but we keep mucking it up. Because you're good but not all good, God demands that you be truthful about it. God says 'deal with it'. (After all, God did; look at that cross.) Jesus call on all people to be at least as spiritual as we seem, instead of seeming more spiritual than we are.
Many of us turn to religious behavior in order to deal with it, but alas. There's no magical solution. Even by doing good things, you can't 'do' your way around it. Not even on Ash Wednesday.
- not by wearing your forehead ashes for an extra-long time like a badge of holiness;
- not by doing a Lenten fast so that others see how holy you are;
- not by taking the role of Simon the Cyrene in the stations of the Cross, so others can see you bearing a holy weight;
- not by 'going Celtic' to be devotionally 'hip';
- not by writing Lenten devotionals for the Web, where thousands can ooh and aaah over your supposed 'wisdom';
- not by copping Francis of Assisi's dress code;
- not by crossing yourself so often that you'll develop carpal tunnel;
- not by name-dropping the Desert Fathers;
- not by copious blog-journaling throughout Lent to draw the instant-message crowd;
- not by chanting Gregorian throughout the work day;
- not by proving how long you can wear sackcloth without scratching;
- not by showing off the wear holes in your prayer shawl and the dog-ears in your Bible;
- not by being the first on your block to go through the entire Easter Vigil in worship at the altar.
The God who sees all isn't fooled for a second. What does He say? 'You've
got your reward now -- the attention, the 15 minutes of fame. But that's
all.' Those who seek to be treated highly will be brought down, and their deeds turn to ash. Those who get real about their humble place in the presence of God and everyone else will be treated highly. A simple, helpful rule: if you love the Jesus of the cross and of the empty tomb, then don't draw attention to yourself or boast about how good you are - draw it to Jesus by actually following Him.
It would be a clear witness to others if we were that way. So what are
you waiting for?
Father, please help me to remember who I am. And please help burn into me the truth that I will die, and Your Son already has -- and He shows me that death is not the end of it. Amen.
Ash Wednesday Recap
What is Ash Wednesday?
-------- the start of the Lent season.
-------- a day of repentance, humility, discipline, and perspective.
When is Ash Wednesday?
-------- 14 February 2016
The Meaning of Ash Wednesday:
-------- so we remember that we will die, but life anew comes for those who follow Christ.
Why is Ash Wednesday grim?
-------- so our faith becomes rooted in the coldest realities of life (and death), for that is where following Jesus will first take us. Easter is about where following Jesus ends up: the joy of the new creation, the Kingdom of God.