Many people would say, that’s the day people go to church and come out with black smudges on their forehead or hand. But they only know what they see; they do not know the why and the reason. Unfortunately, many Christians do it because they are supposed to do it without knowing the meaning and purpose. Nevertheless, for all who come, the simple act of coming and receiving the imposition of ashes is an act of faith. imagine if you knew you were coming because God was beckoning you: “return to me with all your heart” With this in mind you come not because you have to because you can because you are a Child of God and do not fully realize it.
It is NOT a symbol of humiliation or punishment but a sign that you have heard God’s whispering your name, “Come to me if you carry burdens and I will help carry them. Come not because you must but because you may. I believe when one intentionally carves out a portion of their day it expresses a desire to be in relationship with God. We come with the hope God’s desire is to be in relationship us.
Ash Wednesday begins the forty days of Lent which symbolize the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness; overcoming and enduring temptations all humanity struggles with. Traditionally, Christians during the Lenten season have given up meat on Friday’s for fish. Individuals often choose to give up something they love or desire. However, these rituals are empty unless the fast is motivated is to set aside time with the intention to bond with God.
The purpose of receiving the sign of ashes prompts us to consider our mortality; from dust we came from dust we shall return. Yes, we are mortal and one day we all will pass from this world into the next. We remember Jesus who loved us and gave his life for us. He died once for all. When we take pause and acknowledge our hurts, habits and hang ups, We open up our hearts giving ourselves a vantage point we seldom allow ourselves to awaken to God’s presence all around us: we place ourselves in a position to witness and personally experience the love, goodness and grace of God. What we see it, GRACE coming alive! One no longer shrinks back from God because of inadequacies but rather moves towards God despite them.
The following are lyrics to songs written by people who discovered this great truth.
- “He gives me beauty for ashes, the oil of Joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness….
- “Something beautiful, something good, All my confusion, God understood, all I have to offer Him is brokenness and strife but he made something beautify of my life.”
- “Shackled by a heavy burden, neath a load of guilt and shame, then the hand of Jesus touched me and now I am no longer the same. “ He touched me, Oh He touched me, And Oh what joy that floods my soul…Something Happened and now I know He touched me and made me whole.
Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of a journey towards Easter, 40 day’s and 6 Sunday’s. To come and receive the mark, you are acknowledging your humanity and are conscious of God’s desire to be in relationship with you. So go to a church near you to receive yours. I would also invite you to join us as we journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John leading up to Easter.
I Leave you with this thought and prayer:
“You are not loved because you are good but because God is good and that Goodness is beautiful, it is the oil of joy, it is a garment of praise.”
May your Lenten prayer be as simple as the song from Godspell:
Day by Day, Day by Day, O dear Lord three things I pray,
To see they more clearly, follow they more nearly, Love the more dear Day by Day.
Ash Wednesday is MARCH 6th I will be imposing ashes 11:30 -5;30 Drop in to THE OFFICE THEN we will have an Ash Wednesday service at the church hall at 6:30PM
Phoenix Rising UCC Office at the Riverwalk 354 Merrimack Street building 1 door C third floor suite 332 Lawrence, MA 01843 for more information