Ash Wednesday

“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” (Matthew 4:17).

         Many Christians around the world will go to church today to commemorate the beginning of the Lenten season.  We will be marked with a cross on our forehead by the pastor.  Ashes and a cross are powerful symbols.  Ashes remind us of our mortality and the cross reminds us of the God who incarnated and walked through death that we might be with him in eternity.  But there’s more to the story.

         Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays. 40 days in the Bible is related to the period of rain for Noah, the days Moses was on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before the temptation.  Most agree that the number 40 is associated with a journey from struggle to redemption.  Many will do some sort of spiritual fast during this time or they may add a spiritual discipline.  That might mean not doing deserts or it might mean spending 5 minutes in focused meditation each evening before bed.  The goal is to focus on our relationship with God.

         For Palm Sunday last year many churches opened by having the congregation waves palms in commemoration of the start of Holy Week and the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem when people waved palms.  Those palms are later burnt and used this year to mark the beginning of Lent.  During Holy Week people went from greeting Jesus with “Hosanna” to yelling, “Crucify him!”  During Lent we grieve how easy it is for us to go from highs to lows in our faith journey also.  We face our humanity, our mortality, and our need for a Savior.  We lament the ways we have promised to worship and obey God but fallen far short. We contemplate, confess and acknowledge our need to turn from our own sinful ways to Jesus.

         Our readings will focus on Chapters 17 to 26 in the Gospel of Matthew as Matthew shares the events of Jesus’ life as he journey from Transfiguration to the cross.  Let’stake the next 40 days to reflect on this last year and how our own faith waxes and wanes but God’s love remains constant!  May we have the courage to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” and turn to the love and grace offered by the cross.

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