Join us Sundays in May as we explore ways Jesus calls us to shift our perspective to change our hearts, our community, and our world.
So here we are, entering a new season of Lent (no, not the stuff you find in the corners of your jeans pockets after laundry).
“So what is this ‘Ash Wednesday’ and why are we doing it? Aren’t we a Baptist church?”
I was asked this question (again) this week, so here we go: We are a Baptist church. More than that we are (seeking and working to be) a spiritually healthy faith community. While we are contemporary and casual in our worship, and focused on mission in the wider community, spiritual practices are vital to our engagement and expression of faith–our shared faith journey.
When we gather on Ash Wednesday, we will renew the practice of marking one another with a cross, using ash from burnt palm leaves. The palm leaves come from Palm Sunday (last year), which are a symbol we use to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah, the One to redeem and deliver God’s people. Jesus had an unexpected approach to that, giving his life rather than using “power” to force “God’s Will” through government or military might or any of the expected ways… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Over the past few weeks we have been sharing stories of broken people needing healing–our stories. We are also remembering that we are beloved people being sent out to share the love and reign of God. We live in this nexus: continually living in between brokenness and belovedness, remembering and humbled by our sin and pain, while renewed by God’s love. This is the journey we are sharing…
Ashes are a sign of humility. They can be used as a sign of mourning. In this worship, we recognize our own frailty and faults as broken humans in the words “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (found in various forms from Genesis to Job to the Psalms). We get in touch with our own humanity, our limitations, and even our own death. Remember the words of the children’s rhyme: “Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down”? It is a song about death, and perhaps the ashes can be a reminder of our need to wrestle with death, as well as “death-to-self” as we also sing: “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”
We enter 40 days of Lent, a time that we can use to focus on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the Cross, to a tomb, and ultimately to resurrection. These days of humility and spiritual discipline for many are marked by choosing to give up something. The discipline of “going without” is not just a way of showing we have enough moral fiber and discipline to skip dessert or deprive ourselves of caffeine, but really meant to be a way of removing something that might otherwise be a distraction from or get in the way of our making room for Christ in our lives. We do not encourage just “doing without” but instead focusing more intently on our faith journey as we “walk together in the Way of Jesus” by making room for prayer, spiritual practices, and community/mission focused serving, together.
The ashes come at the beginning of our journey toward Easter; perhaps what began as a green symbol of triumph and royalty, now burned to the gray of death and humility, will also fertilize the soil of our hearts for our own journey of renewal and a re-focus of our Story that begins at the feet of Jesus.
Ashes, ashes, we all certainly fall down. Thank God for the Grace that picks us up, dusts us off, and helps us live more lovingly and abundantly. May we share the journey…