Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Is. 58:1-12; Ps. 103; Matt. 6:1-6; 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10
Lent is the solemn season Christians seek to become identified with Jesus’ death. As Advent prepares us for Christmas, Lent prepares us for Easter.
Growing up Baptist, I thought Lent was the fuzz collected in the pockets of my blue jeans. It was not until I went to seminary that I discovered just how meaningful the season of Lent is and how it is practiced by Christians everywhere, even Baptists like me.
I will never forget Ash Wednesday 2011. I traveled to New York City with my Urban Ministry class where we visited churches and ministries bearing prophetic witnesses to the gospel. One of these was The Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea which houses the largest soup kitchen in the entire city. Our professor asked us to go through the food line as someone off the street. I remember being amazed by the diversity of those seeking aid. Homeless and students, addicts and young families, all struggling to make it in the city. Once inside I realize the sanctuary had been transformed into a dining hall. There were no pews, only tables. We ate where the congregation worshiped!
Following the meal, Allison and I noticed two priests standing at the altar, making the sign of the cross in ashes upon the foreheads of any who came forward. We approached and received the ashes. Making the sign, the priest said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We’re all dust. Rich and poor, black and white, straight and crooked. Christ has redeemed us all. Lent reminds us of that powerful truth and of our constant need for the presence of Christ.