Posted by: morgan1965 | February 28, 2010

Lent: Ashes or Fire

The 2010 Lenten journey is underway, and it began with the observance of Ashe Wednesday. Ashe Wednesday, of course, marks the first day of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter.

Lent is a journey to the cross and Easter. During this time, many Christians prepare themselves by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. It is a practice in many Christian congregations for the minister to make the mark of a cross on the forehead of the worship participants during Ashe Wednesday services. The ashes are generated by burning the palms from the previous Palm Sunday celebration.

The practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in the Bible:

• “But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.” [2 Samuel 13:19]
• “When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry.” [Esther 4:1]
• “Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. [Job 2:8]

There is, however, no mention of Ashe Wednesday in the Bible; rather, the biblical emphasis is on repentance and mourning.

A church building burned to the ground. Except for two partial walls, there was not anything left except a pile of rubble and ashes. Interestingly, a few parishioners wanted to preserve these partial walls and incorporate them into the construction of a new church facility. Eventually, the congregation decided to demolish the two walls and clear the site of all rubble and ashes.

The congregation over a period of time designed a new building that would enable them to minister more effectively in their community. They were able to transcend the traditions represented by the ashes from the church fire. They decided to share the fire and not the ashes.

Gustav Mahler describes the point in this way, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

In this Lenten Season and beyond, let’s share the fire. Jesus Christ is the light of the world and God has granted us Resurrection Power.

Let’s share the fire!

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