From Pastor’s Desk
Reflections on Lent 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The penitential season of Lent is upon us. It begins this Wednesday evening with our Ash Wednesday service. I wanted to give you an overview of the themes for the Wednesday evening services during Lent this year.
The readings for Ash Wednesday involve both the humility of repentance and the meaning of Christ’s suffering for us. The sermon will involve reflection on the meaning of repentance.
The Ash Wednesday Service will also offer the ceremony of my applying ashes to your foreheads in the form of the cross to physically and symbolically remind us how we have been redeemed by Christ the crucified. Noting how ashes are referred to in the Scriptures can provide rich meaning to this ceremony. Here are some examples:
- For Abraham, ashes reflect our mortality before God; yet, the man of dust and ashes is full of faith in the Lord (Gen. 18:27)
- Ashes relate to the sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament, as the burnt offerings are reduced to ashes (e.g., Lev. 6:10, Num. 4:13)
- Ashes represent God’s judgment against sin (e.g., Ez. 28:18, Mal. 4:3, and 2 Pt. 2:6)
- In Esther 4:1-3 ashes and sackcloth symbolize lamentation in dire circumstances and great need
- God’s speaking to Job in the whirlwind moves Job to “despise himself” and repent in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6)
- After hearing the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:1-10)
- Jesus symbolically relates sackcloth and ashes to repentance in Matthew 11:21
On the other hand, Hannah provides another dimension of meaning to the application of ashes. She proclaims these beautiful words:
“[The Lord] brings the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor” (1 Sam. 2:8; cf. Ps. 113:7).
Hannah teaches us to apply ashes on Ash Wednesday in the hope of the resurrection. Ashes reflect our mortality and sinfulness in fear of God’s judgment and under the power of death. Yet, God does not leave us there. He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap in the immortality and holiness of Christ’s resurrection, where Hannah’s words reach their ultimate fulfillment. Under the Gospel, conviction of sinfulness always leads to absolution in Jesus’s Name, absolution that flows from Christ’s cross and empty tomb, to which Lent looks forward in reverent and humble expectation.
Beyond Ash Wednesday
Beyond Ash Wednesday we will join Jesus on His journey to the cross and stop with Him at “Places along the Way:”
- Jesus at the Last Supper where He provides “the Example” and leaves His “Legacy”
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer bearing “the Weight of the World”
- Jesus on trial before the chief priests and the then Jewish ruling counsel who are “Blinded” in what they are doing
- Jesus Before Pilate where there is a colossal “Failure of Justice”
- Jesus at Golgotha, the place of the Skull, outside the gates of Jerusalem, being nailed to the cross, “Suffering Innocently yet without Malice” (Luke 23:34); here we find the power of forgiveness.
Please join us, as you are able, on these six Wednesday evenings in March and April for this penitential and contemplative journey of Lent.
Christ’s blessings and peace be with you,