Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

From the Bishop: Ash Wednesday

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Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others they are fasting. – Matthew 6:16

Have you wondered why Christians “disfigure” their faces with the imposition of ashes on the day they begin the great fast of the Church year? Doesn’t our Ash Wednesday custom seem to fly in the face of Jesus’ words that we remember every year on this day?

Mark this well, beloved. The cross of ash that appears on our foreheads today is not a proclamation that we are faithful, religious people who’ve remembered to start Lent by going to church. The ashes are rather a silent lament that we live far from perfect lives. The ashes say that the power of sin has hold of us, and that without God, we are helpless to get free. The ashes say that even on our best days, we fall short of the creation God calls us to be. The ashes say there are places in our lives that are a big mess, and that we need to turn away from the thoughts and actions that are creating that mess, and turn towards a new way of living and being in the world.

The language of our Ash Wednesday liturgy is old fashioned and ancient. It speaks of our “wretchedness” our “wickedness” and our utter dependence on God in Christ to set us free from sin and death. While this language may seem alien or even assaulting in a culture that constantly affirms how special and valuable we are as human beings, these are words we need to hear. We have not loved God with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Now begins the season of the church year when we consciously turn again to the God who loves us so, and put all our trust, hope and faith in God’s love, grace and power to forgive.

Faithfully Yours in Christ –

+ Bishop Barker

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