For many of us, Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent and this year falls on March 5th, was not a part of our religious tradition growing up. For me, it was not until I moved to Boston that I first encountered anyone who observed Ash Wednesday, and I have to say it was a rather embarrassing first encounter. I remember coming into work that morning and upon saying “hello” to my co-worker, I noticed and told my co-worker that she had some dirt on her forehead as I reached up to wipe off what, it turned out, were ashes from her brow.
In recent years, however, observing Ash Wednesday has become much more common in the Protestant faith and observing Ash Wednesday has been a part of our Union Church worship life for many years now.
While being marked with ashes is often seen as a sign of repentance and recognition of our own mortality, I invite you to also consider the receiving ashes this year as a sign of grounding oneself again in our birth right as being a child of God. In this way, receiving ashes on our foreheads reminds us of that time when our baptismal waters flowed down our brow, marking and claiming us as beloved children of God. I hope that Ash Wednesday will be for you the beginning of a Lenten journey of returning to your original blessedness.
During the season, I invite you to consider what may be getting in the way of your ability to fully live into and from this blessedness. What is burdening you? Are you so filled up with worry, busyness, anxiety, or whatever else that there is simply not enough room in your heart for the joy and peace that comes with knowing yourself as a beloved child of God? What would it take for you to set down some of that which you carry? What would it take for you to unburden yourself during this season of Lent?
Beginning at our 7:00 p.m. Ash Wednesday service and continuing throughout the season of Lent, there will be a prayer station in the sanctuary where you are invited to reflect upon what may be burdening you or upon what you may be carrying and to set it down. The labyrinth will be laid in Memorial Chapel for your meditative walk and there will be many educational and spiritual formation opportunities for you to engage in during this season. So let us journey together. Let us lay down that which may be keeping us from the joy and radiance of a life lived within the blessing of being God’s beloved.