Ash Wednesday

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Lectionary Reading

Ash Wednesday

February 25, 2009

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21

Today tends to be a solemn day on the church calendar — as it should be, because we turn our eyes to the cross.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 day journey to the cross.  Many know this season as Lent — Lent is simply the latin word for spring.  I’ll share a little more on that in the days to come for today is Ash Wednesday.  It is a day when we remember our sinful condition.  It is day when we face our own mortality.  It is a day when we face death.  My good friend Mark, blogged on their Ash Wednesday observance this afternoon. He reminded me that the ashes of today come from the palms that we wave on Palm Sunday.

The propet Joel issues a stern warning to the people.

12 That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before. 15 Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem!
Announce a time of fasting;
call the people together
for a solemn meeting.
16 Gather all the people—
the elders, the children, and even the babies.
Call the bridegroom from his quarters
and the bride from her private room.
17 Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence,
stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.
Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord!
Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery.
Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say,
‘Has the God of Israel left them?’

Ash Wednesday is a time of repentance — a time when we remember the sin from whence we came.  The Psalmist David cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”  Today is a turning point day.  It’s a day to turn our eyes toward the cross.  It’s a day to turn our eyes toward our salvation.

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