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Ash Wednesday

by Timothy Hankins

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of a season of penitence, self-reflection, fasting and prayer. For centuries, Christians around the world have observed these weeks leading up to Easter as a solemn time. This time was used to prepare candidates for baptism, and as a season of reconciliation for those who had, by their sinful actions, separated themselves from the community of faith.

In the contemporary Church, Lent is primarily a season of renewed devotion. Through various practices and disciplines, we seek to reorient our lives around Jesus. It’s very common around this time of year to talk about what we’re “giving up for Lent.” Some people give up chocolate, some give up meat on particular days of the week or even give it up altogether for the entire Lenten season. Some will fast from TV, or social media, or some other daily habit. I’ve heard some folk share a fantastic idea of giving up shopping for non-essentials during Lent, and then using the saved discretionary income to support a charitable cause.

All of these sacrifices are good things. They are helpful ways to refocus our time and attention on things that really matter. Above all, Lent gives us the opportunity to reflect on our lives, to acknowledge our own frailty, and to rediscover our need for a savior, our need for Jesus.

You could even say that’s the whole point of Lent: to give up!

In our modern, technology and entertainment filled daily lives, it’s easy to rest in the delusion that we have things under control. It’s easy to believe that somehow our money, our comfort, our amazing way of life has purchased for us the right to call our own shots, to be in charge of our own destiny. It’s easy to forget that what we are is dust, breathed to life by Almighty God.

On Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes on our forehead and hear these words: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

At first, this doesn’t seem like a very uplifting message. No one likes to think about dying. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” seems like a very depressing thing to say in church. But if we think about what God does with dust and ashes, remembering that we are dust takes on a whole new meaning.

In the beginning, God brought life out of dust. God breathed his own breath into a lump of ashes and it came alive. God made us out of dust and stamped us with the divine image.

God does some amazing things with dust and ashes.

As we begin our Lenten devotion this year, I hope that we will all give up: Give up depending on ourselves, give up relying on our wealth and comfort to save us, give up the need to control every aspect of our lives in the minutest detail.

Give up for Lent! And trust in the God who makes life out of dust and ashes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lent photo by Kameleon007

 

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