Why Ash Wednesday Should Matter to All Christians

High Days and holy days have never been in short supply in human religious traditions. Symbolic actions and story remembrance are crucial for etching into our minds and hearts the understanding and identity of what it means to be a Christ follower. To be clear, God’s desire for observance of festivals was not about the days themselves, but about the spiritual truths embedded in the stories and symbols. The command to remember (over 1,200 times in the Bible) is the sacred meaning lodged in any and every “high day and holy day.” So, what do we “remember” on Ash Wednesday?

We certainly remember our MORTALITY. Job was locked into this truth as he sat in agony with his “friends” who came to “console” him. He said, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1 NIV). Moses reminds us in Psalm 90, “You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals’” (Psalm 90:3 NIV). A destiny of dust, and a human life of trouble traveling with us is surely not good news. This is why Paul focuses our attention on the transforming resurrection of Jesus Christ. His life was given for us, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4 NIV).

We remember the call to RETURN back to God. The great prophetic voice of Malachi reminds us that we are a wayward people to need to come back home. “’ Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you’” (Malachi 1:3 NIV). This is the essence of the NT declaration for “repentance.” It is a returning back to God. Peter taps into the Shepherd/Sheep metaphor to help us understand wandering and coming home. “For ‘you were like sheep going astray’ [Isaiah 53:6], but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 NIV).

We are called to RENOUNCE our old lives and live a new life. Evil must be abated from our lives. Sin must be named, called out, and crushed so that my new self can be raised up in the power of resurrection life. Solomon helps us to see the importance of these actions: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13 NIV). Paul has also chimed in on this important act of defiant “worldly resistance” in our faithfulness to God: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV).

We are called to embrace HUMILITY. Realizing that we are not capable of new behavior or changed lives on our own, we must yield our lives to the One who is our sufficient and able to save us and raise us up. James has rightly articulated the “approach” we are to make on our journey back to life: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). This is the heart posture that God most honors and receives with joy. As Peter reminds us, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV).

Next Wednesday evening (February 14th ), we will gather in Centennial Hall at 6:00 pm sharp for a brief potluck meal together. We will then move into the Sanctuary at 6:45 pm to begin our service of remembering. As we gather, we won’t be “remembering” a special “Christian Holy Day.” We won’t be gathered to “fulfill and solemnize” specific religious ceremonies God never actually asked us to order into our lives. What we will be doing is seeking to acknowledge our mortal brokenness before the Lord, name and renounce the shameful ways of wickedness in our lives and in this world, and return back to God in humble and loyal spirits as we move closer to becoming an “Easter People.” Resurrection is real! For Jesus, and for us!

Let us journey together and find hope in our time of need!
“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed”
Psalm 126:1 NIV
Pastor David 😊

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