For Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Updated: Feb 29
For Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020:
I woke-up to snow this morning. It shouldn’t surprise me; it is February after all. Waking up and looking out the window, I noticed a spruce tree across the street. It’s dusted with snow. I looked in silent wonder for a few moments enjoying the beauty of this tree. Then this wild thought danced through my mind: The snow on the tree is like ash on our forehead.
It has been the custom of Christians for centuries to place blessed ashes on their forehead as a sign of penitence. The custom began sometime in the 6th or 7th century. It is intended to be a mark of contrition, penitence, and repentance. The custom of placing ashes upon one’s self is an ancient custom in many places around the world and in many cultures.
The Book of Job reports that Job sat among the ashes (Job 2:8) as a sign of affliction and grief. On this day, we Christians mark ourselves with ashes. It signals the beginning of Lent and a season of repentance, renewal, and rebirth. Job asks his wife if they should only accept the good which God gives them and not the bad (Job 2:10). I think Job recognizes that any place where God is, no matter how we look at it or perceive it, is better than someplace without God.
Writing this, I looked out the back windows of the house. (It’s too cold to actually do this on the front porch today!) Standing there proudly is an old tree, a maple. Dusted in snow, I see the young pink buds waiting to burst open with the Spring. Even in snow there is a mark that something incredible is coming.
The ashes we bear on our forehead today also hold the promise of new life and life renewed like those leaf buds covered in snow. Something incredible is coming. Life in the midst of death – a spruce tree dusted in snow. Unexpected new life in the midst of death – a maple tree with snow dusted leaf buds. If you look for God in the everyday, you will find God is there inviting us into relationship with each other, and with God’s own self through Jesus. With the ashes we wear today be just a dirty mark on our forehead, or will they be an invitation to a deeper relationship with God, with others, and with self?
You can find the podcast version of this blog post at: https://anchor.fm/motfpashwednesday2020