Today is Ash Wednesday in the life of the church. It is the beginning of the season of Lent, a season where Christians are called to repentance and self-reflection. A few years ago my friend and colleague, Rev. Alan Combs, an elder in the Virginia Conference, wrote the following post for this blog that I’m reposting as we enter Lent. May this season be a season of gut-checking. Peace, Jason
Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash
On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” as ashes are placed on our forehead in the sign of a cross in order to remember both that we are mortals, and that we are creatures of a Creator. We remember also that our death and our life are wrapped up in the One we are following to the Cross.
One thing I always find so fascinating and helpful on Ash Wednesday is the Gospel lesson for the day. It comes from Matthew 6:1-6, and 16-21, which contains this admonition from Jesus:
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).
“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)
Who is innocent?
Who is guilty?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful?” (Genesis 4:6, CEB)
The Jedi Master Yoda warns both Aiken and Luke Skywalker about anger. Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Someone should have warned Cain.
you said to eat from
any tree in the garden
just not that one
the one in the middle
the one with the best fruit
but i ate it anyway
and now i’m falling
The Redemption of Scrooge, Matt Rawle, Abingdon Press, 2016.
There are a few things that are a must at Christmastime. The tree with treasured ornaments. The rich aromas of holiday cooking. The time spent revisiting old memories.
For me, Christmas is not complete without watching Christmas movies. At our house, it’s A Christmas Story, Elf, and Christmas Vacation. And some version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (My favorite is still the Mickey Mouse version.) Dickens’ Carol has captured readers for centuries. His story has been retold on stage, in film and television. Quite possibly because the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is timeless.