March 6th marks the beginning of Lent 2019. It’s that period of time where we fast from things that keep us from drawing closer to God, in hopes that we draw closer to the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Just as we would, hopefully daily, we would clean the lint from our belly, during the 40 days of fasting in Lent we would clean the lint from our lives. We attempt to say goodbye—remove that unclean lint—to the things that keep us from the new life with God. Or, as N. T. Wright put it, “we say a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old!”
As Ronald Rolheiser said, “It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace.” But, when we clean away our lint, during Lent with the hope that it stays away, walking this earth becomes easier due to our walking closer to God.
Our Ash Wednesday service takes on a journey both backward and forward. We have the sign of the cross made on our foreheads in ashes. These ashes take us both back in time and into the future. We can look back at all the people in biblical times that mourn, our showed their grief by sitting in ashes, or placing ashes on the heads. So, our ashes will symbolize the ‘junk’ we’ve removed from our own lives. But, they show a bit more!
The sign of the Cross points to something better than what we are leaving behind. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that when he was with them he vowed to know nothing but Christ, and [Christ] crucified. It was all about that cross. When we ‘survey that wondrous Cross’ we find that there, our new life begins. It was there that the New World began. It all happened on that old rugged cross. The earth was there to be forever changed. Then, three days later came the resurrection; the proof that what happened on the cross was real, that the world was forever changed.
Our foreheads are marked with those ashes—symbols of those things, our past, that we are giving up in order that we may more fully be closer to God and do his work—in the sign of a cross—identifying us with the New World that began on a Friday with the death of the Christ. The ashes then look back on what we’ve left and forward to the life refined by the fire given to us through the work of the Lord on the cross!
Let your Lenten fast draw you closer to that Cross. Clean you bellybuttons so to speak so your lives will be a sweet scent going up to the Lord!
Until Next Time, may the Good Lord Bless And Keep You!