Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday. As ashes are placed on our foreheads in the form of the cross, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

It seems so cold. So dreary. So depressing. Black soot rubbed into our skin. A reminder that we are going to die. Not exactly uplifting.

Ash Wednesday is more than just a morbid reminder of our own mortality.

But if you look closer, the Ash Wednesday service is more than just a morbid reminder of our own mortality.

First, the cross is always the sign of Christ’s victory over death. Even – perhaps especially – when it is rubbed into our foreheads. So yes, we will die, but since Christ has conquered death, we need not fear.

Second, being reminded of our mortality also keeps things in perspective, and helps us to live more faithfully. “In all you do,” we are told in Sirach 7:36, “remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin.”

Finally, the words we hear spoken as the ashes are placed on our foreheads – “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – are, among other things, a not so gentle reminder that we are physical beings.

In other words, they are a reminder that, yes, we are dust – but not just any dust. We are dust that has had life breathed into us by the breath of God. Which means we experience life physically – through our senses, which are gifts of God.

This year during our Lenten journey, we are taking our cue from that fact – that we are physical beings who experience the world and God through our senses – to focus our attention on one sense each Wednesday during our Lenten evening worship.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good,” Psalm 34 reminds us. This Lent, we’ll have a chance not only to taste and see, but also to touch and smell and hear how good God is. Join us on the journey, won’t you?

Question: The traditional spiritual disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charitable giving). What Lenten disciplines do you practice? And, more specific to this year’s theme: Is there one sense more than any other that allows you to most fully experience God?

About the author

  • I have always liked the discipline of marking the season of Lent in a particular way–whether by giving something up or by adding a practice. I think that it reminds us daily (no matter how “well” we succeed at the discipline) of Jesus’ sacrifice.
    I’ve had some time to think about this, and because I was in on the Lenten planning, I have been thinking particularly about the sense of taste and the goodness that comes from God through both the food we eat and the rituals that surround meals. So, for Lent this year, I have decided to focus on eating as organically, locally, and intentionally as possible. Letting my food remind me of God’s sustenance and care for us, as well as looking at meals shared with loved ones as times when God draws near through our relationships with one another.

  • For me, most certainly, the sense that I seem to rely on most when it comes to experiencing God, would be the sense of hearing. I listen for God in the silent moments of each day even as I experience God in the noises of each day. I am drawn to prayer to God whenever I hear a siren; music is often devotion; stories shared over coffee become inspiration. In the sounds of everyday life God is unveiled and revealed in more ways than I can absorb.

  • Cheryl and Tim

    I am really excited about the Lenten theme this year! Just a comment on sight. First of all, I am always in awe of creation, yes, even on these cold days. Every day is like a painter unfolding his/her palette.

    Secondly, as a nurse practitioner, I make a lot of eye contact. What has become very special to me over the years is remembering that we were all created by God. I think of the eyes as very telling. As I see my patient’s over the course of the day, I love to look into eyes to find the love of Christ. Conversely, I want my patient’s to see the love of Christ in my eyes, even on a tough day!

    Tim – Thanks for your sermon about the cross. I work down at the U of MN in a very diverse clinics. Every now and then I wonder if I should remove my cross. I haven’t and now for sure I won’t – because the cross is part of me and whom I believe. Again, hopefully a ministry to others.

    Okay – I don’t know if I sent this to the correct address. I’ve never done this before; but, we are hitting on topics that really speak to me.

    Have a great week!

    LyNette Rasmussen

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