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Substance and Shape and Seeking Awe by Connie McNeill

The ashes remind me that I am a sinner. The cross reminds me that I have a Savior.

The earliest that Ash Wednesday begins Lent is February 4. So, as you can see, this year we are early in the calendar but not the earliest it can be. However, this year is unique and only happens hundreds of years apart. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day intersect. Maybe a challenge for those for whom fasting and chocolate intersect?

The imposition of ashes liturgically marks the beginning of the Lenten Season and is observed by many different Christian traditions including us at Second Baptist. It means we are 46 days (40 fasting days if you exclude Sundays) before Easter. The forty days are intended to mirror the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he began his public ministry.

We observe it as preparation for Easter, for Christ’s resurrection. Ashes have long been a symbol of grief, and we see many occurrences of the use of Ashes in the bible. The ashes are meant to remind us of our sinfulness before God and our mortality. Using ashes to draw a cross also reminds us that both our sinfulness and our mortality are changed because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

You will have to determine how to make Ash Wednesday begin a personally significant preparation for Easter. If giving up caffeine, red meat, chocolate or anything of this tangible world helps you do that then bravo! I am going to remind us of influence from our friend Alicia Chole to consider.

Instead of giving up something, do something. Something that will again put into your being the awe of God. As Alicia says, it may be more about “surrender of soul than sacrifice of stuff…Lent is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.” (40 Days of Decrease, pg. 2)

Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. May this be a prayer mantra that helps us be awed by how we are loved as well as who loves us as we live into this Lenten Season.  After all, our destination is love—we call it Easter.


Posted by Connie McNeill at 6:00 AM