OK….so Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) is over, the pancakes were good, and now it’s Ash Wednesday…let the repentance begin?
That’s essentially the word on the street about the religious observance of ashes on the forehead. In poor Job’s case (overly simplified) it was:
· In one chapter Job loses everything: family, wealth, reputation and health;
· Next come 37 chapters of Job arguing with his friends and God about why he lost everything;
· Then there are three chapters of God responding enough to help Job understand that God knows stuff and we are pretty ignorant;
· And then a final chapter of Job acknowledging how little he really knows about why things happen and Job repenting (changing his attitude and actions) in dust and ashes.
The “dust and ashes” thing – do we really mean it?
Do we really mean what has been a Christian tradition since the early days of the church? That is, in the 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning, are we Really in a season of intense personal work (prayer, repentance, reflection) as a way of preparing to properly meet God on resurrection morning?
Or were the traditional pancakes and Mardi Gras parties enough to help us endure the religious rituals?
What is left when the pancakes are gone? Is it just giving up McDonalds for Lent?
I have to confess at this point, I have been on all three sides of this. Not being raised in a church tradition which makes much of Lent, my tendency was to ignore it. But, I’ve also tried to experience Lent by some intense practice of self-denial and whatever brand of stepped-up devotional fervor seemed right. And, sadly, there are times when I’ve just simply “limped” through the motions, nodding in the direction of my “duty” to observe Lent because it’s on the calendar.
Ho Hum; pass the pancakes, please.
This year I’m inclined to let the past stay in the past. Like God’s mercies – new every morning – I’m inclined to believe that (even) my cynicism about past failure can be a dim memory in this Lenten season of ashes.
Tonight I’m going to have a symbol of that repentance placed over my eyes. Instead of washing it right off after the service, I think I’ll leave it on until I get home and look in the mirror.
And there it will be – ashes, beautiful, scandalous, cautionary and full of promise. As good as the pancakes were…the joy of anticipating Resurrection Day will be greater by far!
Make plans to worship with your faith community tonight. Ashes are best viewed in community; it’s a good start.