Today is Ash Wednesday. I sat in my daughter’s preschool service where family and friends were invited to participate with all the children. I loved the way this season was explained. The pastor did speak of sin but in such an age appropriate way. She talked of not being loving to others, to ourselves or to God then let the children articulate what “not being loving” looked like in their worlds. She then invited all the children to take this season not to give up anything. (They are after all in preschool, between being in control of very little and having the attention span of gnats I thought this a wise move). Instead, she invited them to be intentional about showing and telling others about Jesus.
Ash Wednesday marks 40 days of journeying toward Easter. It is a time to prepare our hearts, to reflect, offer thanksgiving and devoting ourselves to worship and service to God in His world. It’s a season to do a little spring cleaning spiritually and uncover, dust off and remember faith that has been laying dormant over the winter.
“From dust you have come, to dust you will return.” This is the phrase said as ashes are placed on our foreheads. It’s not an apocalyptic decree. It’s a statement. A reminder. It’s also a declaration of the fragility of the time in between birth and death. We live with dust all around. The dust of lives burned to the ground. The dust of rubble in a city. The dust created when new construction takes place. The dust that accumulates when we become too busy to pay attention to the corners of our rooms and our lives. It’s there, but it also offers an invitation for transformation. Where there is dust and destruction, there is an opportunity for even the smallest changes to brighten a space. Take a deep breath, slow down, don’t cut someone off on the road, laugh instead of yell when your kid does something annoying, pray, help someone else. Whatever dusting your life off looks like, make it matter in this world. Allow lent to be a time where you pick something up that draws you closer to Christ, that brightens a space allowing others around you to also see Jesus. And while you are at it, look for the ways Jesus breaks in changing you as we all journey toward Easter.
For some people, Ash Wednesday and Lent have “always” been a part of your tradition. For other faithful Christians, this part of the church calendar is new to them. And still others are hearing about it for the first time. Welcome, glad you’re here. We all belong. Glad we are all together.