Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a season marked reflection on our lives and the ways sin inhibits our relationship with God and one another. It is a time for stripping away the non-essential and the unimportant, and honestly reflecting on our own sinfulness. We stand before God humble, remorseful hearts, knowing our weakness and failings, the times when we have “missed the mark.” Lent is a time of preparation as we walk with Jesus through the final days of his earthly life. Along the journey we are attuned to a renewed awareness of God’s grace and the gift of forgiveness which comes through God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Repentance is an act of confession. Marcus Borg has written: “… repentance is not primarily about feeling guilty about our sins, or about doing penance (think of the common practice of “giving up” something during Lent – whether meat or chocolate or alcohol or shopping, and so forth). The biblical meanings of repenting are primarily twofold. On the one hand, it means to ‘return’ to God, to ‘reconnect’ with God. On the other hand, it means ‘to go beyond the mind that we have’ – minds shaped by our socialization and enculturation.”*
On Ash Wednesday we hear the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19),” and we are so marked with the dust of ashes. With humility the unimportant is removed – all our clothing, our possessions, our abilities – and we stand before the Lord as fully human beings. We are mortal. Our days are numbered. And what we do in the time God gives us matters.
So take on a new spiritual discipline this season. Spend more time in meditation with God. Read a portion of scripture that you’ve never read before. Volunteer to help someone in need (Consider Clark County Community Services, the Clark County Homeless Coalition, Beacon of Hope, Habitat for Humanity, one of the many others). Contact someone from whom you’ve been estranged, forgive and try to reconcile with them. Join a community of faith in worship (Salem welcomes you!). Be kind to a stranger.
Only when first we confess our sin can we be reconciled to God and one another. That is Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, and now is the time… the time to repent and to seek reconciliation with God and one another, trusting in the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ. Lent is not an easy season, but only after we walk the path of penitence and reconciliation can we come on Easter morning with the assurance of God’s forgiveness and the deep, joyous celebration that is ours in the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord! Lenten blessings.
*Marcus Borg @ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marcusborg/2014/03/ash-wednesday-death-and-repentance/