What a great season.
We remember, and recognize our need for Life by sitting in the awareness of death for 40 days. Easter is a wonderful thing, the biggest moment in the Church calendar. And rightfully so! The power of Christ over death is what makes our hope a Living Hope, what makes our God and Savior a Living God. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, he would have just been another man. Good teacher, prophet, healer; just a guy. Dead.
it’s not Easter yet.
Tomorrow starts Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Typically this is kicked off by an Ash Wednesday service, as people are marked with a cross made from last years triumphal palm fronds. A fitting cycle, a pattern worthy to think about. We are creatures of habit, of pattern. Tides don’t just rule the oceans. Our hearts are wildly tidal, often bipolar. The story of Palm Sunday is our story: one moment praising and proclaiming, the next condemning and crucifying. So the fact that we use Palm Sunday’s palms to start the season of Lent is subtly appropriate. But let’s have some background.
What is Lent?
Lent is our chance to reflect on a few things for a fixed amount of time. It is our reminder of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness being tempted. It is our reminder of our own mortality. It is a reminder of our own sin. It is a reminder of our need for rescue. We start with ashes (and interestingly, we end as ashes…).
Ash Wednesday is a very powerful tradition. Ashes represent death, our mortality, our complete lack of control. But they also represent a different kind of mourning; A mourning of innocence. More correctly, a confession of brokenness. Ashes in the Old Testament represented grief or loss. People would pour ash on their heads as a sign of mourning. Here, on Ash Wednesday, we mourn the loss of our perfection. Not our own personal perfection, since we never were perfect.
But our Human perfection.
The beginning God made, and made GOOD.
Ash Wednesday is a chance to reflect on our own sin, and grieve it. To ask for forgiveness, to confess, to forgive. It is an incredible chance to do some house cleaning of the soul. Get it out, get it OUT. Holding in that stuff can drive you crazy! So we take time at this beginning of Lent to prepare our hearts and souls to go through a journey of denial and temptation, of death and resurrection, of darkness and Light. It is not a small thing. It is perhaps a glimpse of the best things possible.
Life should be real. Life should be transparent. Life should be wonderful. Sure there is darkness, sure there is pain and grief and death. But the tradition of Ash Wednesday reminds us that there is hope. The simple fact that the ashes are smeared on as a cross points to the hope of resurrection. But that is still 40 days away.
Lent. Let’s do this.