Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ash Wednesday

"Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord,
I who am but
dust and ashes."
(Genesis 18:27)

I'm foregoing Tuesday's Art this week in favor of musings on the upcoming (and often misunderstood) service of Ash Wednesday. Another season of Lent will begin tomorrow with a smudge of ashes on our foreheads and a somewhat grim outlook of forty days and nights to come filled with small fasts, fish on Fridays, a whole lot of church, and sad, sorrowful hymns that remind us just how unworthy we are. Perhaps that's why it's so woefully neglected by so many churches.

Lent, however, is not about us. Take ashes as an outward promise to repent, abstain from meat on Fridays, give up chocolate for a month or pass up that Coke. Or don't: the focus of this season is the free grace the Son of God won for us at Calvary. No amount of abstinence, no sacrifice we could give, no penance we could fulfill will ever match what has been given to us. Thank God it doesn't have to.

This Lenten season, do what best reminds you and those around you of the love Christ gave us when He was faced with forty days of temptation: seek ashes to remind yourself of the dust we all came from; fast to remind yourself of the abundance that has been given to you; attend church every time it's offered to praise God for His love of all loves excelling: Christ crucified for you. But whatever you do, remember: it's about what He's already done.

Savior, when in dust to Thee, low we bow the adoring knee,
when, repentant, to the skies, scarce we lift our weeping eyes.
Oh, by all Thy pains and woe, suffered once for man below,
Bending from Thy throne on high, hear our penitential cry!
"Savior, When in Dust to Thee"
by Robert Grant, 1779-1838

Not sure where to find ashes? Click here to find a church near you.

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