Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of
Lent. This is the day when Roman Catholics traditionally apply
an ashen cross on their foreheads. Marking with ash is a symbolic reminder that we come from the dust and that so much of
what we do, and are, will return to dust one day.
You may choose to use some ashes as a symbol as you
read the following scripture passages. You may use the ashes to make a cross on your forehead, or merely hold some in your
hands to get a feel for it. Lent is about remembering why Jesus died. He died because we think and do evil things. These things
anger God, and such evil is destined to be reduced to ash one day.
Palm Sunday is the epitome of Lent: a day of great
celebration, and a day of deep mourning. On this day, Jesus entered Jerusalem as its king while thousands rejoiced. Within
a week, he would be dead, and his followers would be confused and scattered. For everyone who witnessed the events of that
week 2000 years ago, it was a roller coaster ride—they knew nothing of Easter. We, on the other hand, have the hope
of the resurrection, but also the knowledge that we are the reason for the crucifixion. Bright sadness. ...
By Friday of this week (if you don't know the way
the story ends) it looks like the wrath of God has eclipsed the God of Love. But it isn't so. Mercy triumphs over Judgment
at Easter: love triumphs over wrath. Love is the new commandment given on this night by Jesus after he
has washed the disciples' feet .... "Love one another as I have loved you." This is the "mandatum novum" from which
the name "Maundy Thursday" comes.
But the disciples don't fully comprehend how deeply
Jesus has loved them. After all they had been through, it took a king on his knees with a towel around his waist to prove
to them the loving, servant heart of God (what if our President, or a king, were to wash the feet of a bunch of fishermen
today? What if it were your feet?). But even so, Peter the disciple doesn't understand why Jesus would defile himself
in this way.
If Peter finds it hard to accept that Jesus his king
would humiliate himself by washing his followers' feet, he will be even more confounded tomorrow. For there will be another
demonstration of how God loves on Good Friday, when the perfect love of God in Jesus faces the wrath of God against evil,
and triumphs in the end. All for the love of us.
Darkness falls over the Earth on Good Friday. God's own son goes to his death to save us from the darkness in our hearts.
While he is walking out this terrifying mission his followers seem to do everything they can to show how little we humans
deserve the favor.
God is a God of Light: he can't tolerate darkness,
and darkness cannot survive in his presence. We who have dark hearts full of sin, should tremble at this fact, but Jesus,
who was completely good, took on our sin and stood under the wrath of God. On the cross, he was destroyed and cut off from
his Father. It was to have been our fate. This week, in the midst of humanity's own darkest hour, and in the face of
his followers' cowardice, selfishness, and laziness, God does not cut us off. In his awesome mercy, he sends his own son into
the darkness so that we might live in the light.
Lent began with a symbol of ashes, and ends with
a flame of light: a Sunrise that scatters the darkness of death. Light a candle for the flame of love that burns in Jesus
for us, his redeemed children. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!