Burnt, like ash, back into one’s memory
“Repent and believe.”
I hear those words spoken over me as the ashes touch my flesh. I remember the palms in the hands of little children waving as we celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. My thoughts journey to the night I gathered around a fire with others as we burned the brittle leaves. The dying embers becoming the ash upon my flesh.
“Repent and believe.”
The weight of the hand against my forehead transmits the weight of the command, “repent.” Kneeling there, I consider the year that has gone by and all that I have done or left undone that needs to be repented. I reflect on each place where I may have denied Jesus Christ through my words, my thoughts, or my deeds. Where have I sinned and fallen short?
Then the rest of the command hits me, “...and believe.” It really needs an exclamation point, “...and believe!”
I am commanded to believe the good news. The good news that God so loved the world that Jesus came not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved. Salvation of the world includes you and me. You are forgiven. I am forgiven.
There at the altar I come to know myself as sinner, forgiven and beloved. I come face to face with my mortality and the gift of everlasting life through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord.
Rising from the altar, I enter into Lent. A period of remembrance, remembering God’s love that seeks us out, finds us and transforms us. So how might I in these 40 days, grow in my relationship with God and with my neighbor.
Lent provides all of us with time to reflect on our journey of faith. It can be a time to fast, choosing to fast the things that take our attention away from God and God’s call on our lives. It can be a time to add a spiritual discipline. For example, choosing to rise earlier in the morning for prayer and devotional study of scripture, or choosing to write notes to those who need encouragement, or choosing to say “yes” to a mission trip or volunteering time in local mission. Choosing to attend to the salvation story through these 40 days in worship opportunities that come from our area churches, lenten lunches or evening programs. Holy week is filled with worship moments to highlight the depth of God’s love as the cross rises to the sky.
Immersed in the story from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday we may wonder, how can we forget what God has done for us? It is easier than we think. It is as simple as stepping away from that Ash Wednesday altar. The world that demands our time, our treasure, our talent, our witness meets us as we rise returning to our seats. Spiritual disciplines practiced during Lent help keep us grounded in Christ so that we meet the world empowered by the Holy Spirit offering a simple request: “repent and believe.”