Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the day many Christians recognize as the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent often involves practices of self-denial like fasting, but the spirit of lent, is one of self-reflection. In this reflection we recognize the need for the saving work of God in our life. The Christian life should be an intentional life–an examined life–not a haphazard or frenzied life. Lent provides us with an opportunity to examine our lives and reset our priorities.
During this season we want to be especially open to the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our hope in this reflection is to align our hearts and minds with the ways and purposes of God. One of the outcomes of this reflection is that we realize we don’t live as we should. We realize our lives are still marked by sin. So during Lent we acknowledge our sins and our need for a Savior and we commit to living more holy and righteous lives.
Unfortunately, our Lenten practices can be twisted to become less helpful than we intend. Our reflections can lead us to focus on our inadequacies and sinfulness. This might lead to a sense of despair. We might wonder have I gone too far? Can God still love me? Even when we can acknowledge in our heads that God’s grace is enough, our hearts are slow to believe. When this happens we can fall into a merit based way of thinking about our life before God. We think to ourselves,”I’ve got to do something to make up for my sinfulness!” Then our Lenten practices become more a form of penance than an opening up of our hearts to God’s grace.
This Lenten season, let me encourage you to focus more on Christ’s heart toward you. Consider the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. By receiving the ashes, the worshipper acknowledges that God's judgment against our sin is right and just. But the ashes are also made in the sign of the cross—the very instrument by which our Lord took upon himself the punishment for our sin, in our place. Thus, the cross of ashes serves to remind us that we are sinners, and Christ died for us sinners. The cross is the place where God’s heart, Christ’s heart, for sinners is most clearly demonstrated. Christ in love sees us in our sinfulness and gives himself for us to set us free. Jesus love doesn’t change on this side of the cross. Jesus continues in love to reach out to us.
We will be exploring Christ’s Heart for us on Sunday mornings during Lent (we actually started last Sunday Feb 14). We don’t livestream, but we post our sermons on the church website. If you are unable to attend our services, check out the sermons on line.