“…if you pour yourself out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness, and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually,”
Why ashes? Ashes are a reminder of death. All living things eventually end up in ashes. In the Old Testament, God’s people would often put ashes on their head as a sign of sorrow and repentance. They knew that outside of relationship with God, they were dead so they put ashes on their head to show their sorrow at being dead in sin. Early Christians began to practice a day of remembrance called, Ash Wednesday, to mark the beginning of a season of repentance, and preparation for those who were coming into the faith. This season has been handed down to us as the season of Lent.
There’s an old saying, “You are never taller, than when you are on your knees.” This saying captures my hope for the season of Lent, which begins today for those who follow the Western Christian calendar. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day devoted to asking God to sanctify our 40-day journey into the heart of Jesus as He becomes our Paschal lamb, our Passover sacrifice. St. Paul said of Jesus, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,” (1 Cor. 5:7). But, how do we keep the feast?
Easter, or Pascha, which means Passover in Greek (as our Eastern Christian brothers call it), is the pinnacle of our faith; its significance to our lives cannot be contemplated too much. Where would we be without the cross? Even still, where would we be without the resurrection? We would be dead in our sins. We would be nothing but ashes. But, Jesus has raised us from the ashes. He conquered death to give us life everlasting.
What Is Lent All About?
The season of Lent calls us to bow down and worship through fasting, prayer and works of mercy, which is the model Jesus gave us for living in His Spirit. Today we bow our heads and mark them with ashes to remind us we are dust, and to dust we will return (Gen 3:19). We also consecrate to God the season of Lent as a time for fasting and prayer, and to do the works of mercy Isaiah tells us helps our spirit rise from the darkness.The 58th chapter of Isaiah was an indictment of the people for their false worship of God. They gathered together and consecrated their fasts, but they didn’t live them out.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools.” (Ecc. 5:4).
What Will You Do?
What will you do with Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent? If you will bow down and serve the living God, He will, as Isaiah said, “turn your gloom into noonday” Go ahead, give it a try this year. Join me on the journey. I’ll be here everyday talking us both through it. Let’s admit we are dust and to dust we will return… and then, let God raise us from the ashes.
In peace, for a Holy Lent,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”