Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is the 40 day period (not counting Sundays) before Easter. It is a time for reflection upon life – both life here on earth and life eternal. One of the most important services of the entire year for me is the Ash Wednesday service. The ashes come from the burned palm fronds that were used in the preceding year’s Palm Sunday service. I always find that deeply moving. I can imagine that some of the people who were there to greet Jesus as He came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey were there to condemn Him a few days later. Waving palm branches one moment, crying out “Crucify Him!” the next.
I know that last year on Palm Sunday as I watched the children enter into worship waving the palm branches, I was full of excitement. Excitement for the Easter season, excitement for Jesus. But in the year since that service, I have to admit that some of my excitement has ebbed and sometimes flowed. That is the natural rhythm of life and the very reason we need Lent every year. It is a time to re-evaluate and take stock of where we are in our relationship with God, with one another, and with the world around us.
The ashes are not meant to burden us with guilt, but rather remind us of the natural seasons of life. I hope you will join with the family of faith as we begin the season of Lent.