February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Passage: Psalm 51:1-17

Ash Wednesday Reflection
February 17, 2021

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:10, 17)

Today is Ash Wednesday. The first day of the season of Lent. A day we remember that “from dust we came, and to dust we will return.” It is a reminder of our mortality, and a call for repentance: to turn to God our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier in faith and humility. Although no one knows when the celebration of Ash Wednesday started, the Lenten discipline has been around about a thousand years.

I learned something new about ashes this week. I was reading about various kinds of toothpastes and learned that there is such a thing as charcoal whitening toothpaste. If any of you use such a thing, I want to know!! It seems that charcoal possesses purifying properties. As a product of ash, it filters and cleans. The World Health Organization even recommends using ash as a substitute for soap in cases of emergency when other cleansers may not be available.

So, if ashes filter and clean, then the symbolism of Ash Wednesday goes deeper. When we are marked with the ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead, we not only repent, but we remember the good news. The good news that through the cross of Jesus Christ we are cleansed of our sins. We are purified until all that is not of God is washed away, and only the image of God – what we are intended to be -- remains. As the psalmist prays, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” We are marked with the ashes and hear the words, “Repent and believe the good news,” that through Jesus’s death and resurrection we are forgiven. We are cleansed. We are made new.

On this Ash Wednesday, as we begin the season of Lent, we can reflect on our own need for repentance. To come before God with a heart broken open, vulnerable and honest with our need for forgiveness, the realities of our mortality and our human frailties, as well as our longing and love for God, our desire to draw closer to the Lord, and to be purified, so that we can be who God created us to be, and more and more a reflection of Jesus, our Savior.

Loving God, forgive us for all of the ways we have turned away from you. By your grace, renew, restore and transform us that we would be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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