It is Ash Wednesday 2014. Some of you will go to church and receive your ashes while the vast majority of our communities will wonder why some people have smudges of dirt on their foreheads. On the surface, the practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday is a little weird. I can’t think of any other time that we wipe dirt on our faces and NOT wipe it off immediately (unless you are a 4 year old boy…then all bets are off).
As I think about this day…I can’t help but think about our hectic lives. You see, Ash Wednesday is about acknowledging out frailty and owning the fact that, well, to be put simply, we are going to die. Our lives will come to an end and one day we will return to dirt (or ashes) from which we came.
Ash Wednesday is really a door to the season of Lent. We confront our mortality and sinfulness before God and enter into a season of preparation for celebrating Easter. To simplify, Lent is really about turning toward God. Because let’s be honest with ourselves. The way we live our lives often steers us in other directions. We get so wrapped up in everything else going on in our lives. We focus on our families…our jobs…our hobbies…our selfishness…or whatever else pulls the focus of your time and energy. Focusing on those things is not a bad thing. The problem is…we often allow those things to get in the way of focusing on God.
Lent provides us the opportunity to adjust our lives to direct our attention on Him. We do this by first rubbing dirt on our faces. Weird? Maybe. But I know that every time I look in the mirror and I see that cross of ashes on my forehead, I am reminded that I will die. I cannot stop that from happening. But there is One who can save me and it would serve me well (and my family well) if I were to turn my attention and focus on He that saves.
All of this reminds me of a message that I delivered at Newburgh United Methodist Church on February 16th. It is not about Lent…but I think it has everything to do with Lent. It is about busyness…which for most of us is the thing we need to give up this Lenten season in order to turn our attention toward God. You can hear that message here.