Standing Together with Ashes on Our Heads

It’s the season of Lent.

What this means to each of us can be vastly different, but last night when I had the opportunity to serve in our Ash Wednesday service, I saw something.

  • Men,
  • Women,
  • Children,
  • Babies in arms.

We all came and were marked by the black ash. This ash had once been palm leaves, the very same palm leaves that were fans of proclamation of Jesus became the ash that joined us all together.

Lent is not a place, but rather an invitation and process. I admit I have been known to use the 40 day period as a diet program (I mean, giving up sugar probably does more good for my waistline than my soul). Nevertheless, I have often approached Lent with two questions:

  • What can I realistically give up?
  • Can I skip my b-day (since it falls in the middle of the 40 days)?

Thinking of Lent as a process, rather than a place, hit me last night. As I placed black ash on my thumb and pressed it to the foreheads of all the people present, I felt compassion and comradeship…

“Turn from sin and return to the life of God.”

With each stroke of my thumb, I looked deep into eyes of people just like me. We share a commonality – we sin daily, hourly, moment by moment, and while sin marks us, God refuses to use “it” as a definition for our identity.

dear friend says it this way:

“I like the picture of us being a community of people walking around with ashes on our foreheads. For one day, we agree, ‘We’re messed up. We’re not as put together as we seem to be. We need help.’”

We all need help. And last night, as I looked up at the audience and saw a sea of faces all bearing ashen black marks, I felt gratitude and joy. All of us together marked by sin, yet defined by God’s love for us!!

We do need one another, we do need help, and we need love. Above all else, the season of Lent is a process of learning a pattern of turning from sin and returning to the life of God, again and again, and again, and again.

This year, instead of making Lent a definitive place, I am going to work on my pivots, and strengthen my ankle muscles by turning from sin AND
returning to the life of God.

Let’s go together, shall we?


Photo credit.

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