Yesterday we began the intentional journey toward the most important event on the Christian calendar: Easter. It is so important that we take these 40 days (minus Sundays) to prepare for Jesus’ resurrection. Every excursion has a starting point. For us, our starting point is Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday has a long history within Christianity. The original name, ‘ The Day of Ashes’ comes from “Dies Cinerum” in the Roman Missal (liturgy book) and is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary (a book used by priests for leading worship). The concept originated by the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century. Though the exact origin of the day is not clear, the custom of marking the head with ashes on this day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).
So, it is safe to say the Christian church has been celebrating Ash Wednesday for 1400 years and Lent even longer. Although the earliest church did not celebrate Ash Wednesday, the themes of this holiday are biblical. Lent is the time to prepare for Easter through: prayer, contemplation, acts of service, fasting, repentance (change), confession and the list goes on.
Why would we do such a thing as trying to be more humble and dependent upon God? The answer comes at the end of Lent. The gift of God given at the cross and empty tomb is for sinners. The message of Good Friday and Easter morning is this: there is forgiveness, love, reconciliation and eternal life for those who are not perfect. Therefore, Lent is the time for us to come to the realization that we are sinners and have a great need for a God who would die and then come back to life.
That is why we prepare for Easter and we begin this time of introspection on Ash Wednesday. We remember that we are mortal and that we will die someday. This is most evident when the ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross and these words are spoken, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We are created beings and we will die. Not very up-lifting. But these are important words if we are to realize that we have a great need for a Savior who will save us from ourselves. We don’t “kind of” need Jesus, we totally need Him.
Lent is all about being intentional about our broken nature. We are less than what God intended us to be. Now is the time to be honest about that. Rather than saying, “Hey, no one is perfect” or “I’m not that bad” instead we will spend the next 40 days examining our own brokenness so that when we arrive at the cross and then the empty tomb we will know beyond the shadow of doubt that God sees us more than dust. We are highly valued real estate in God’s eyes and not just dust in the wind.
Take this journey with me and with others because at the end you will experience the re-LENT-less love of Jesus.