Fellow American Christians,
Have you ever had the experience of feeling like Good Friday or Easter snuck up on you in the busyness of your life and wished that your heart had been more prepared to celebrate the event you claim to be the greatest and most important thing that ever happened in the history of time? As kids run around and find plastic eggs filled with candy, does your heart ever sink at how far our hearts might be from the wonder and awe, joy and hope, peace and love that could be at the heart of our Easter celebration? It happens to me almost every year.
Between our jobs, extracurricular activities, relationships with family and friends, homes, cars, entertainment, civic commitments, etc...our lives become a blur! We are so busy, so inundated with social media, news, and entertainment that we rarely take the time to take stock of our souls. If we do, many of us find that we're lonely, anxious, stressed out, frustrated, angry, or hopeless. As Christians we follow a Lord who, although being God incarnate, chose regularly to retreat to the wilderness for quiet time with His Father. Jesus often sacrificially set aside time to pray all night or in the early morning hours to be sure that He was following the Holy Spirit's lead and working in the Father's will. How much MORE should we, as broken, sinful followers of Jesus be dedicating time to quiet our souls and listen for the Spirit. As members of a consumer society, Americans have a great deal of trouble seeing ourselves apart from our ability to produce. Our identities and worth are mostly wrapped up in the efficiency or success of our jobs or interests of passion and therefore we serve the god's of busyness and production.
As Christians though, we are called to be a prophetic people; an alternative community! We are invited to find our identity and worth solely in our adoption into the family of God through Jesus' finished work on the cross. WHAT IF...you cut out some of the busyness, entertainment, and indulgence in your life over the next 46 days (taking breaks to celebrate on Sundays) and used the extra time to meditate on your need for a Savior; renew your commitment to daily repentance; and to remember with confidence and gratitude that Jesus has conquered sin and death?1
During a traditional Ash Wednesday service, ashes are applied to the worshiper’s forehead (the “imposition”) in the shape of a cross.
In Scripture ashes or dust symbolize
Genesis 18:27 - Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
Esther 4:1 - When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.
Ezekiel 28:18 - By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
Jonah 3:6 - The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Just reading these four verses greatly challenges my thinking as an American Christian shaped by the prideful, victorious, post-modern, pluralist, death-hiding, entertainment-driven culture of my society. Join me in making a plan to sacrificially cut something out of your life in order to prepare our hearts for the celebrations of Good Friday and Easter this year. I'd recommend following a Lenten devotional like Journey to the Cross: Devotions for Lent, from which I've borrowed several pieces of this post. In the book, Waker & Haug commend us to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” - Romans 6:11. As you begin this journey of Lent, you must start with rending your heart—tearing it from self-absorption and binding yourself (mind and devotion) to Jesus.1
1 Walker, Will; Haug, Kendal (2017-01-12). Journey to the Cross: Devotions for Lent (Kindle Locations 233-241). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.