CSB Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once– and after this, judgment—
Lent begins with a reminder of a reality. The reality is we are mortal. We will die.
NIV Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
When you see a person wearing the sign of the cross made by the imposition of ashes you can know this person has been confronted by this reality. They have been involved in a time of worship, of joining together with others in the presence of God, that has intentionally brought up this truth. The ashes on their foreheads are there as a witness to the world that they understand. They care about the future and what they, and all of humanity, faces in the future. They have heard the words that call us to reflect, repent, renew, and be revived as a people who can face the reality of death with the words:
NIV 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, we take time to bow before our God, admit we are flawed, finite, people who need to cry out to God, “Have Mercy!” It is also a time to remember that we are to walk with God. We must be ready to take up our cross. We must commit to carry out our calling to make disciples.
Love is not a spectator activity. Love requires participation. Love requires our involvement in helping one another. Love, the love God has for us is what makes us more than simply animated ashes awaiting the destiny of becoming decaying dust. We have been made in the image of God and God is love. It is love that answers the question:
NRS Psalm 8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Let us seek the love of God that will enable us to overcome any fear of our mortality.
Lent is usually a time of fasting, of “giving up” something as an act of self-denial and trust in the Lord. Perhaps today you will reflect on something you might give over to God in order to be more mindful of our need of God. This will be our topic tomorrow.
Our journey of Lent has begun.