Tonight I will sit again in Ash Wednesday services, beginning Lent by admitting to my brokenness and bearing something more important than brokenness. These smudged ashes on the foreheads of everyone gathered here—beautiful, sooty reminders of loss and love that we did absolutely nothing to earn—these bodily, impermanent crosses—are evidence of Jesus’ scars and our own healing. I am oh so ready to receive this healing…as pure gift. This cross is not about death or making us all feel guilty and ashamed. This cross is about hope. It’s about looking for and rejoicing in the promise of new life and the everlasting love of God in Christ.
One day, the pastor says, we will all be dust (Genesis 3:19). Then she traces a sign of God’s love in the very ash that represents my inability to overcome the weight of the world. Suddenly I feel all the weight—of my mistakes, my mortality, my inability to be perfect—lift. God, not me, is in control. It feels so freeing.
This message is excerpted from “The scars under our ashes” by Elizabeth Hunter in the March 2019 Cafe online magazine. Today is Ash Wednesday. Today we commemorate John Wesley, 1791 and Charles Wesley, 1788, renewers of the church.
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