Unless you have a Catholic background, Ash Wednesday may seem like foreign territory. We protestants have only embraced Ash Wednesday traditions in the past few decades. Why? We protestants have a long history of turning up our noses at all things Catholic. Think about how long it took us to vote in a Catholic president and what a <GASP> scandal that was. (Google it, if you weren't around to remember it!)
No, we don't like people who aren't like us. And we certainly do not like their traditions. So, burning last year's Palm Sunday palm branches, saving the ashes, then mixing them with olive oil in order to smear the ashes on our foreheads? Harumph! What a silly notion.
And, for many of us in mainline churches, we don't even care to mention the word SIN. We very carefully phrase our prayers to ask for guidance and forgiveness, but repentance and penance for sins we've committed? We leave that to the Baptists and the Lutherans. Hey, we're Disciples. We're all about the communion.
We do occasionally mention sins. Traditionalists believe that Jesus died for them. We are baptized to wash them away. Unlike some of our protestant brothers and sisters, our worship services to not contain Confessions or Assurances of Forgiveness. Unlike our Catholic cousins, we do not visit the confessional and pour out our hearts to our priests. And we do not do penance.
Or, do we?
Few humans skate through life without an awareness that they err. Few of us live without conscience, regret, and a need to make things right when we cause harm or pain. We need to make things right with one another. We need to make things right with God.
Lent is the 40 day period, not including the Sundays, leading up to Easter. Ash Wednesday is the first day of that forty day period. During those forty days we are given a time to step back from our regular activities and attitudes. This is a time in which we can reflect. We can take a good look at ourselves and our lives, our thoughts and our souls. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Am I right with others in my life? Am I right with my God?
If you find that you are not satisfied with your answers, Lent is a time for you to repent and restore.
This year, on Ash Wednesday, we invite you to join us for worship at 5:30 p.m. Join us as we gather to reflect as individuals, and as a community, upon who we are and where we are as children of God. Join us as we ask God to look down upon us with mercy. We human beings in our ever-striving, frequently failing, but still hopeful ways. Join us as we come forward in all humility, receive the ashes on our foreheads, being reminded that from dust we have come and to dust we will return.
May God hold your dusty little self with tenderness!