Ash Wednesday

People keep time in a variety of ways. The calendar year runs from January to December. Businesses operate on a fiscal year. Families with children follow the school calendar. Kindergarten students learn about the four seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter.

The church marches to the beat of its own time. The church year begins with Advent—the four Sunday season prior to Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas celebrate Christ’s coming into the world. Epiphany begins with Jesus’ baptism and recounts Christ’s early ministry.

During the forty days of Lent, believers prepare their hearts for the events of Holy Week. Easter proclaims that Jesus Christ is risen indeed! Fifty days later the festival of Pentecost recalls God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.

The annual cycle rehearses the story of Christ and the church. The seasons recall Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Christian calendar baptizes ordinary time with sacred meaning.

This year Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14. The 40 day season (excluding Sundays) concludes the Saturday before Easter. The somber, reflective time calls Christians to prepare their hearts to hear once again the story of Jesus’ suffering and death.

During Lent, many believers “give up” something as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Others “take up” a spiritual discipline or charitable cause in imitation of God’s love.

Ash WednesdayAsh Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. During the service, the minister marks believers’ foreheads in the sign of the cross. Traditionally, ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday fronds are used. Since Old Testament times, God’s people have observed penitential times with “sackcloth and ashes.”

During the imposition of the cross with ashes, the minister typically says: Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe in the gospel. The ashes and words serve as reminders of humanity’s mortality and sinfulness. However, the sign of the cross recognizes God’s gifts of eternal life and forgiveness.

On Ash Wednesday, we begin the journey to the cross and empty tomb. During this 40 day journey, let us walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Growing Older If Not Up

Recent signs in my life that I’m growing older—if not up:

  • I drive around town with Sam the Yorkshire Terrier sitting in my lap.
  • I fall asleep in my favorite easy chair watching TV after 9:00 p.m.
  • I have a favorite easy chair.
  • On Saturday mornings, I cannot sleep past 6:00 a.m.
  • I bought blue jeans on sale at Costco (sign 1). Then I discovered they had a stretchy waist band (sign 2). After trying them on, I decided to keep them (sign 3).
  • The candles on my birthday cake indicate that I missed any chance to have a mid-life crisis.
  • I find myself using phrases like “Back in the day,” “In my time,” and “I don’t understand young people today.”
  • Putting on a sweat shirt and pants after supper makes me happy. If supper is before 6:00, then I’m even happier.
  • If I fall asleep warm and pain-free, then it’s been a GOOD day.
  • I often awake at 2:00 a.m. to ponder the problems of the world.
  • And staring at the dark ceiling does not generate any solutions.
  • I lift with my legs.
  • I try not to lift at all.
  • I think before bending over . . . and then consider what else to do while I’m down there.
  • I watch athletes and think: “They’re going to regret THAT in thirty years!”
  • I no longer know all the answers. Some days I forget the questions.
  • God has used the years to make me wise enough to know that I’m not wise enough.

So I’m growing older—if not always up. MOST days it beats the alternative.