Back in Motion

It has been a while since I last updated my blog and there are so many things that I could write. I'll attempt to touch upon the few things I've learned since my last entry.

1. Ash Wednesday. Where do I even start to write on this topic? It is a topic that has been weighing on my heart since I first learned that the church I work at has a yearly Ash Wednesday service. You see, I grew up as a member of a congregation that didn't celebrate lent, Ash Wednesday, and other holidays that they couldn't seem to justify honoring. So, when I was told that one of my duties as a children and youth director was to plan for the kids to attend the church's Ash Wednesday service my heart and my mind began some deep soul, people, and web searching.

I probably should have written each day of my search - it would have made some interesting entries and might have made me the blog of the year! (Oh, yeah, that is right, we all are the person of the year...) What I discovered on my search is that Ash Wednesday has some pretty sketcy beginnings. If I understand correctly, Ash Wednesday's origin is with the Feast of Tammuz (false Messiah of the Babylonians) and was adopted by the Catholic church as a form of penance. Today, each denomination has chosen to celebrate Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent in a different way. Lent, being the 40 days, plus Sundays, of preparation for Easter and remembrance of Jesus 40 days of wilderness testing. Overall, the main focus of Ash Wednesday is repentance, almost like a Christian celebration of the Day of Atonement.

To be brief, perhaps I'll write more later... I went to the Ash Wednesday service, but did not go forward for the ash. The service focused more on grace than on repentance and I wondered if each person present really understood what had motivated them to come to the service or why they were there. When they burned the dried palm branches from last year's Palm Sunday service, my stomach turned-over. The smell was awful, which I guess fits with the odor that must have been associated with the sin offering of olden days. When the pastor announced that the ashes were representative of our lost hopes in what we had hoped to have done the previous year and in a way associated the ashes with our sins, I could not participate.

See, the thing is, Jesus has already taken my sins upon himself. He gave a huge price a couple thousand years ago, and I just can't see myself disrespecting His gift by putting a symbol of sin upon my own body and then walking out of the service. Maybe if they had put the ashes on our foreheads earlier in the day or as we walked in the doors of the church and then the service had been set up with some time of sadness in which we would confess our sins and then the good news of Christ's gift was announced and the service was brought to a close by each of us wandering up to the front of the sanctuary to have the ashes washed off of our faces, symbolic of what Christ has done for us, maybe then, I could have put the ashed on my forehead. But, for the time being, I just couldn't.

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