Wednesday, February 13 was the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Christians around the world with a service that includes the placing of ashes on the forehead of the worshippers. The ashes are to remind that we are made from dust, and to dust we will return. That is one part of the Lenten observance that I have not yet participated in, as I have only been observing Lent for the last three years. In the tradition in which I grew up, Lent (like most of the church calendar) was not even on our radar. We celebrated Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I had a vague notion that other days were observed in other traditions, but we were taught that those days were not important. So, I'm a bit late to the keeping of the church calendar, and still learning.
As I go through the Lenten period, I am struck by the fact that our bodies are formed from the dust of the ground, and to that dust they will return. Because of the brokenness of Creation, we face the inevitable decay of our physical selves. As a middle-aged man who has tried to compete in sports at the same level he did when he was in his twenties, I can attest to that. At some point our bodies will wear out and no longer be useful to us. When they are then placed in the ground, they will return to the dust from which they came. As we look around us, we see that decay in every part of our world. Ash Wednesday and Lent are good reminders that we are broken and in need of a savior.
Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. During this time, we take a good hard look at our humanity and our brokenness, but we also look ahead to the time when our Savior will return and will restore Creation. We look forward to the resurrection and the Kingdom of God coming in all its fullness. When I think about Ash Wednesday, and the symbolism of the ashes on the forehead, I think of the song, "Beauty Will Rise." In that song Steven Curtis Chapman sings,
"Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes...beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning
...This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that's been made
out of the ashes..."
As we go through this season of Lent, contemplating our sinfulness and our need of a redeemer, let us remember that we do have a Savior who has made us a new creation, and who will one day make all things new.