“Remember you are ashes and to ashes you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)
“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Even though it’s Valentines Day, the above is the historic liturgy for today. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Today, for centuries, the Christian Church has entered into a special 40-day season of preparation for the Sunday of Sundays: Easter Sunday. I think there’s wisdom in this. Consider how much we prepare for Christmas! At Redeemer, we celebrate Ash Sunday. We love the rich history of the church, but we’re also flexible. If you’re not familiar with Ash Sunday or are puzzled as to why a Presbyterian Church would participate in this practice, read on and also see the explanation and instructions at the end of this email.
Ash Sunday is a sobering time, but it is also a freeing time. It’s a relief too. Ash Sunday recognizes, in a very tangible way, that Adam and Eve’s autonomy-seeking sin brought physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual death and decay into this world. Sin is more than “doing bad things.” Sin promises to make things better, but it spoils things, makes us less than we should be, and isolates us. Adam and Eve’s desire to be in control and in charge feels like the path to freedom, authenticity, and flourishing. But it just leads to further anxiety, isolation, anger, and despair. Just look around at our modern world.
Ash Sunday’s call to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” is a call to repent (turn away from sin). That means, not just believing the gospel in our hearts, but committing to actually being faithful to the gospel with our will, life, and choices.