Our Lenten Journey Begins – Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday will start our Lenten journey – what Eastern Orthodoxy aptly calls “Forty Nights of Bright Darkness” – it is a good thing to reflect upon the meaning of those ashes placed upon our foreheads in the sign of the Cross with the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is good to recall why we mourn together. The ashes are obviously in mourning for the present condition of humanity, but the words convey something more profound – they hint that much more is going on here than the reminder of our mortality. They are also a proclamation of our highest hope. We are being reminded of the sacred promise that we will rise together.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
God’s divinely tough love was born in the very moments following our parents’ sins of self-worship and self-preservation. In that eternal moment, He launched a Selfless Plan that would unveil itself throughout millennia – a plan where God would sacrifice Himself as Ransom for His creation from the snares of death. That is what we mourn with the ashes on our foreheads – not feeling sorry for ourselves and our human condition, but rather, in sincere repentance for the price we know God would ultimately pay to bring us back rising from those ashes.
It takes a radical vantage point to begin to grasp how far we fell at the Fall and to what distances God had to go to bring us back – a vista like that which we gain in Exodus 90. For most of us, it takes the ninety days of a desert experience for us to begin to have the eyes to see like Adam saw before he first sinned.
God appeared to Moses as the promise to rescue men and women from their enslavement to their fallen gods – millennia after our first parents had first sold themselves into slavery. God entered human history at the Burning Bush to rescue Moses’ people. And ultimately, God permanently entered our human history as the Man Jesus Christ to once and for all time destroy humanity’s enslavement to death. It took millennia, but for us today – now – we are ransomed by the Blood of Jesus Christ and restored once again to the Image of God. But now we’re not just God’s human creation; we are forever His Children!
So today, as you and I walk forward and receive those ashes, let us grieve for what Christ has had to do for us. Let us not grieve because we need to lose weight or because our hair is thinning or because the guy next door has a better job or a cuter girlfriend or wife. Let us grieve because God considered us so vital to Himself that He entered human history to ransom us back. Let us grieve because we love Him so much. Let us grieve because we want our brother and sister to know Him too. Let us mourn because the world so severely needs Him. And for that reason, let us re-dedicate ourselves to Him during this Time of the Bright Darkness – that we will all rise from the ashes together. Amen.
For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. YOU SHALL BE CLEAN before the LORD from all your sins. – Leviticus 16:30