There is a lot I didn’t know about Ash Wednesday. Here is some information the ELCA has included on its website. Perhaps there is something new here for you as there was for me.
“Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes. Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, often mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence.
Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:Ashes remind us of God's condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam, "Dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. Even in this ashen mark of death, we anticipate the new life of Easter. Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent and return to God.”
When we come forward to receive ashes we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our faults, purify our hearts, control our desires and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy.
Lent is a season for changing our lives, for turning things around, for getting back on the right path, for living the life to which God has called us. Ash Wednesday isn’t a cheerful celebration, but if we take it seriously Ash Wednesday can be the beginning of a changed life. A life of deeper faith, stronger community, and a closer relationship with God.
Lenten Wednesdays: Speaking of change - change is a constant in our lives. Some changes mark gradual transitions, as when daytime shifts toward twilight. Others happen in the blink of an eye, separating time into “before” and “after”. We choose to undergo some changes while others are forced upon us. In the weeks, days, and hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples also experienced change: a change of venue as the gates of Jerusalem approached; a change of plans as their long-awaited Messiah was arrested and tried; a change of circumstance as the crowds shouted “Crucify!”
Change can be hard. We long for the expected and familiar, but all too often find ourselves in the midst of uncertainty and the unknown. We cannot predict how things will turn out. During our mid-week Lenten services we will explore the following ways in which change can affect our lives.
Change of Season: “For everything there is a season.” We hear those familiar words telling us life is full of changes. Jesus’ parables are filled with images of life transformed. Just as yeast turns flour into bread, we too are called to be agents of change in the kingdom of God.
Change of Habit: Bad habits are hard to break. The word of God urges us to replace them with the fruits of the Spirit. Love, patience, generosity, and self-control are just some of the good habits practiced by those whose foundation is built on Christ.
Change of Circumstances: We move from elementary to middle school, or from our hometown to a new community. We lose a job, or gain a child, or accomplish a goal, or relinquish a dream. Through it all, we learn to give thanks to God.
Change of Heart: Jesus’ words to the Pharisees give us pause: “You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.” Jesus invites us to experience a change of heart that will change every part of our lives.
Change of Plans: God’s ways are not our own. We expect a conquering king and hero, but Jesus instead leads us down the road to Jerusalem and humbles himself on the cross. God changes our plans and replaces them with a love broader and deeper than anything we could imagine.
If you feel called to speak on one of these aspects of change, please let me know. We are looking for four volunteers to share a message on how such change has impacted their lives. Are you one of those four?