A Note About Ash Wednesday
“Blessed are those that mourn,
for they shall be comforted.” – Matt 5:4 (ESV)
Mourning is a natural part of life. We mourn over many things, the loss of a loved one, the absence of friends, or many other changes. Mourning is healthy, and when it is done well it brings healing. We can ignore the pain we feel, but eventually it will leak out, and it can negatively impact us.
Christians walk a delicate balance between the freedom Christ brings and the realization of our sinfulness. It is right and good for Christians to have Godly sorrow over our rebellious behavior. However, Godly sorrow and self-loathing are not the same emotion. Godly sorrow is about recognizing God’s holiness and self-loathing is ultimately about us. In our current culture, we do not focus on our mistakes. We tend to minimize our sinful behavior. All of this disregards God’s holiness so that we can feel comfortable. We should not ignore our rebellion forever.
So how do we have a healthy view of our sinfulness before God? I think the historical Church has given us an answer: Lent. Lent is a time for mourning and Godly reflection as we lead up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. Lent was completely foreign to me until I became the Pastor at Grace Church. I was raised in a Christian non-liturgical environment (what is called low-church). We had our own liturgy, but we did not follow the liturgical calendar except for Easter and Christmas.
Lent begins on a Wednesday service called Ash Wednesday. This service is designed to help us reflect on our sin in a healthy way. It is a time for mourning, a time for reflection. It is a time to fast. Fasting during Lent is a physical reminder of a spiritual posture. Lent is only for a season and concludes on Resurrection Sunday.
The church imposes ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday as a sign of mourning and humility. The service is solemn and it provides space for reflection. In 2 Kings 22, the young King Josiah heard the Book of the Law read and immediately tore his robe in mourning. He knew Judah had sinned against God. Like Josiah, it is good for us to also spend some time humbling ourselves before the Lord, the King of the Universe.
I invite you to come to our Ash Wednesday service at 6:00 PM on March 1 and observe this day together.