By Rev. Roger Sylwester
Ash Wednesday has been an important day in the Christian Church. Traditionally (without COVID-19 restrictions) the service on this day includes the observance of the Lord’s Supper and the imposition of ashes on the forehead. This year you have received an invitation from Pastor and Elders to participate in a special observance.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a pilgrimage or journey of 40 days towards Easter that Christians have taken each year since at least 325 AD. Why did Christians choose 40 days? Perhaps it reminded them of the 40 years that Israel spent in the wilderness before being permitted to enter the Promised Land. Or it may have reminded them that, following his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Those 40 days were a time of testing and resisting temptations, after which he began his ministry.
So we begin our Lenten journey this year. The sign of the cross was placed on our foreheads at our baptism. On this day it is a cross of ashes, hence its name, Ash Wednesday. Many people chose to “give up” something for Lent. This practice becomes a reminder that we are part of this pilgrimage. We are following Jesus who set his face towards Jerusalem, knowing that his life would be offered for us all.
Just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, we too, are called each day to follow Jesus. There will be temptations to think first of ourselves, to seek the praise of others and measure ourselves by our successes. “Repent and believe the Good News” are Jesus’ first words to all in the Gospel of Mark.
Repent means to turn and go in a different direction. Every day we begin as children of God, born anew in our baptism. We are called to turn towards this gift of grace and toward the gifts we can give to others by our love, our care and our respect. We begin anew by forgiving others, just as we have been forgiven. All of this is part of our pilgrimage each day. With our eyes on our Lord, his suffering, death and resurrection, we continue our Lenten journey. May this be our song:
Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow his example pure,
Through a world that would deceive us and to sin our spirits lure.
Onward in his footsteps treading, Pilgrims here, our home above,
Full of faith and hope and love, Let us do our Father’s bidding
Faithful Lord, with me abide; I shall follow where you guide.
Have a blessed journey!