Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. If you are interested in the history of Ash Wednesday, check out the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church website.
The focus of Lent is often on giving up something, of sacrificing something to draw us to a closer understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But this year for Lent, I think I want to focus more on the repentance aspect of the season that is signified by the ashes of Ash Wednesday.
Even in Old Testaments time, ashes were a symbol of repentance before the Lord. The prophet Daniel wrote: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3 (NIV). Perhaps this is what we should be doing for Ash Wednesday and during Lent – turning to God and pleading with Him in prayer, fasting, and in repentance. It seems to me this would help us keep our eyes more on Him and less on ourselves and our own sacrifice.
Jesus also spoke of repentance in sackcloth and ashes:
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 (NIV).
We have been told of an even greater miracle than the cities of Korazin and Bethsaida. Eye witnesses have told us of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection – the greatest miracle that has ever happened! When we believe, we experience the miracle of having the Holy Spirit come to dwell in our hearts and the regeneration of our hearts that follows.
As we travel through the season of Lent towards the celebration of the miracle of the resurrection, the knowledge of this miracle should lead us to repentance. Dictionary.com defines the verb repent: “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.” To truly repent, we can’t just feel sorry for the wrong we’ve done, but we must also turn towards God and ask Him to help us do better next time we are faced with temptation.
So during Lent, I want to turn towards God and seek to know Him better. I want to be in awe of the miracle of His grace and love.