As you travel about today, you’re likely going to see people with ashes on their foreheads. And there’s a good reason. Well, several, actually.
Before I get into that, welcome to “Mornings with Bishop Robert” — thanks for joining me … Come on in and have a seat with me in my study as we talk about ashes. My goal is to introduce people to the Jesus they never knew, and help them get to know Him and His word personally – and better ! If our time together today speaks to your heart, then let me invite you to like, subscribe and share it with a friend!
There are important events that occur in our lives. We mark the the most important of them with celebrations and even anniversaries. Birthdays and weddings probably top the list.
An upcoming wedding can take an incredible amount of preparation. You’ve got to select the best venue. Decide upon what the bridal party is going to wear. Make sure all of the guests are invited. The list is long, detailed – and can be very expensive.
Some of my best friends just invited me to participate in their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They gave me the invitation yesterday – four months in advance of the event! It’s a very important, once-in-a-lifetime event that they wanted to make sure I didn’t miss, so they sent the invitation in plenty of time for me to plan and prepare. I’m even going to get to celebrate a renewal of their vows.
So what does all of this have to do with ashes?
First let me explain the WHAT. Then I’ll touch on the WHY, and why it really is important to you, even if you’ve never observed this particular Christian holy day.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of season in the church’s calendar known as Lent, which will culminate in seven weeks with the pinnacle of Christian celebrations – Resurrection Day. You may think of Lent as a time to “give something up” for a while, a way to show God how serious you are about being a “good Christian.” Or you may think the whole idea of Lent is totally weird. But actually, it is deeply symbolic and neither of those two things.
Churches prepare for Ash Wednesday by burning palm branches left over from last year’s celebration of Palm Sunday. Then those ashes are imposed on the forehead as the priest quotes our verse for today, which comes from the book of Genesis. It says REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN.
Ash Wednesday has multiple applications that make it significant. It’s a time of focus, and of preparation. We’re actually preparing for a wedding celebration – OURS!! Followers of Jesus Christ are called the Bride of Christ in the bible; and this is the season that we prepare ourselves. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is what sealed the promise of ours, and our participation in the ultimate wedding feast that is to come.
And so, like any bride preparing for a wedding, we give the event our total focus. We choose to put some things aside so that we can attend to other things that are more important. We forego some things so that we can make certain we are able to have others. And, of course, sometimes the bride just stops all of the planing and preparation work to just spend more time with her betrothed. The bride isn’t doing any of these things to try and “prove” her love for her fiance. She’s doing them because she loves him, and she wants to do all she can to be prepared for the big event.
Lent is a time of preparation for celebration. It’s a time to carefully consider dozens and dozens of things to make SURE that we ready and haven’t forgotten something that needed to be attended to. The disciplines of Lent lead us along a path of hope, culminating in a celebration of life. As we receive the imposition and the sign of the cross is marked upon our foreheads – the ashes mark me as a sinner, the cross marks me as one who has a Savior.
A final thought — Ash Wednesday should not be the only day when people can immediately tell that you’re a Christian. It should be evident every day in our lives, words and actions. We should live lives of sacrifice. Because we are dust; our bodies will return to the dust. But it’s what happens after that point that is SO important. Choosing the venue for eternity is a critical choice.
This is important to you because we all need to consider where we are in our relationship with Jesus, and how to best prepare for the celebration that is coming in seven weeks.
Are you ready?