Life, Death, Love and Ashes
The season of Lent begins on a day known in many church communities as Ash Wednesday.
A day when many Christians take part in the ancient practice of having the sign of the cross marked on their forehead in ashes. The ashes used in the ritual often come from the charred remains of the previous year's, Palm Sunday, palms. Traditionally, the ashes symbolize two things, death and repentance. We are reminded (if we need reminding) that we will one day die. The Bible makes frequent reference to the connection between our mortality and ashes. Abraham told God, "I am
but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27), a reference to his human mortality. Jeremiah described death as a "valley of corpses and ashes" (Jeremiah 31:40).
Death is inevitable, yet it's something we can prepare for by how we live. This preparedness
is sometimes called repentance; it's a way of living with a disposition toward God. When we repent,
we are making a decision to turn away from the things that distract us and discourage
us in our relationship with God. We recognize our sin and over the 40 days of Lent (Ash Wednesday to
Easter, exclusive of Sundays) we can adopt disciplines that bolster our faith
and strengthen our loving relationship with God.
I approach Ash Wednesday as a living expression of the commands of Deuteronomy 6:8. For a day,
I have the emblem of my faith fixed on my forehead, and for a season I have my attention more actively fixed on, Jesus. I'm visibly reminded of the God who breathed me into life, and is my companion in living. I live with a disposition that there is something special about life, that my life
is a gift and how I live it matters. My life has purpose and there is an intrinsic good in it.
Lenten discipline this year is to love better. To make a conscious, daily effort to love my God,
my neighbor and my self in ways which draw us all closer together. I'll do this by spending
in study and prayer. I'll do this by making more time for conversation, bread breaking, celebration and sabbath. I'll do this by the grace of God.
Enjoy the journey.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as
a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem[b] on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.