Making Visible The Kingdom Through Convergence

Ash Wednesday 2012

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” – Psalm 95:1-7

I was sort of an outsider in the town we lived in when I was a child.  The vast majority of my classmates were raised in Roman Catholic households.  I was raised in an independent Charismatic Church and we were taught that Roman Catholics were at best, misguided, and at worst, the enemy of all true Spirit filled Christians.  In many respects it was a lot like listening to being around an ex-smoker or like listening to a scorned husband talk about his ex-wife.  Sadly, we often fail to extend grace to fellow Christians with different viewpoints and assume that they have a deficit.  So I never understood why Roman Catholics walked around with soot on their foreheads one day.

As an adult, I was struck by the absurdity of not bothering to wipe the ashes from your forehead.  Yet, at the same time I came to respect the amount of self-acceptance if not outright audacity that is required to walk around in public declaring that you are a penitent follower of Christ.  I admit that I don’t always feel that well adjusted.  It feels a little awkward sometimes to wander the streets or spend a day at the office with ashes on my head…in the 21st century (c’mon, tell me that your iPhone or the latest Android device doesn’t make you feel just a little like you’re on an episode of Star Trek – thankfully Star Trek has gone largely untouched…sadly the same can’t be said for Star Wars so we all know what Mr. Lucas needs to give up for Lent).  Of course the irony is, I have these thoughts and feelings because I’m focused on me.  I’m more concerned with my own comfort, which is of course one of the many reasons I desperately need Jesus in the first place.  The last thing on the minds of those ancient Christians that were among the first to be martyred was their own comfort.

So today, on Ash Wednesday I will go to church and participate in the liturgical imposition of ashes and officially enter into the season of Lent.  It wont be comfortable and I’m sure the next 40 or so days will continue to be so as join with other Christ followers in prayer, fasting, and an examination of my own heart and the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Take a moment to listen to the message in “Passover by Joe Day” and meditate upon this first day of the Lenten Season.

“Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer and hanged himself? Or are we like Peter, who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

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