Ash Wednesday: Know What - Know What we often take for granted
Our Lenten commitment to “know chocolate” challenges us to recognize that we often take life’s best gifts for granted—whether it is chocolate or God’s loving presence. Ash Wednesday: Know What Chocolate candy wrappers from chocolate products
Do you recognize any of these wrappers?
[Hold up empty chocolate wrappers.]
Too bad these are empty! Is one of these a favorite of yours?
Have you ever heard anyone say that he or she plans to give up something for Lent? Maybe something like chocolate? Since today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty-day season called Lent, you just might hear people say that there will be NO chocolate until Easter arrives. Giving up something we find tempting—especially chocolate—serves as a tool to help focus our minds and hearts during the season of Lent. Every time we think about and want whatever it is we have given up we are reminded that it’s Lent. In order to manage our desire for that which has been given up we refocus our thoughts onto God. As Christians we call this repenting. Repent means we turn, we refocus, we turn our heart and minds to God.
During this Lenten season, I want to suggest a different way to prepare for Easter. Instead of NO – N-O—chocolate for Lent, how about KNOW – K–N–O–W—chocolate for Lent?
We can get ready for Easter by learning about God’s gift of chocolate as we prepare to receive God’s gift of love made manifest in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
When you enjoy chocolate do you ever think about where the candy comes from? How and where does chocolate grow? Who works hard so that we can have a chocolate bar whenever we want? Most of us eat our favorite candy without thinking about who makes chocolate possible. Without the season of Lent, we might treat Easter the same way. We might just enjoy the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s love in our lives without ever stopping to understand or appreciate how that amazing story of the empty tomb came to be or what the gift of God’s love in Jesus means to each of us.
On this day, Ash Wednesday, we are invited to observe a Holy Lent. Observing a Holy Lent means we spend time intentionally looking at our lives, the places we are broken and in need of healing, the places we have lost sight of God and are in need of turning in a new direction, the places we are angry, hurt, and need to find the reconciliation and peace of Jesus.
Today is known as the 'Day of Ashes' because on this day the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.
The name 'Day of Ashes' comes from an ancient rite.
The name 'Day of Ashes' comes from an ancient rite.
The concept originated somewhere in the 6th century during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).The use of ashes is first found in the Old Testament where they were used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality; and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin.
The Christian imposition of ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is derived from this biblical custom.
The ashes we use on Ash Wednesday come from the burning of the palms that were blessed on Palm Sunday last spring. After burning the palms ashes need to be cooled, sifted, and refined, removing all the charred chunks that remain. Then the priest mixes a little chrism, holy oil, into the ashes in order to help them stay in place and not fall into our eyes. In the Ash Wednesday service the priest blesses the ashes, making them holy.
Ash Wednesday, with the gritty mark of ashes, points us to look at how we are living our lives.
These dry, dark, ashes, the burnt remnants of the palms from last spring, remind us that life begins with the slippery wet newborn baby crying out its first breath and ends with the dried up and shriveled struggle to breathe our last.
In between our first breath and our last, we are God’s people living in God’s world. Something we are prone to forget. We want to believe that we are self-made, and that our importance and worth comes solely from our own efforts. But the ashes remind us that we are made from the good earth by a loving God. The Bible tells us that God breathed life into the earth and all creation came forth. God, who loves us, weeps with us, and celebrates with us.
Marking our forehead with the sign of the cross in ashes follows the same pattern of the cross marked on our heads at baptism. The baptismal cross is made with chrism, holy oil, and marks us as Christ’s own forever. The ashes remind us that we are all the same, made of the dust of the earth, given life by God.
We are marked as Christ’s own. And in the marking we are called to look at our lives, especially during this season of Lent, and examine how we are broken, what relationships are impaired, and how can we heal and deepen our relationship with God, with one another, and with ourselves.
The dust of Ash Wednesday begins this journey.
Today these empty wrappers remind us that on Ash Wednesday we begin our journey toward an empty tomb. The empty tomb is a reminder that God’s love cannot die and will not be contained. These pieces of candy remind us that Easter will come, no matter the loss, despair, and bleakness of life. (Hold up basket of mini chocolate bars). Life is sweet because God loves us, always.
I invite you to observe a holy Lent. To travel with Jesus through these forty days considering your relationship with God and Jesus. Examining the empty places in your life and trusting that the sweetness of God’s love will prevail as you fortify your relationship with God and deepen your faith.
(At the end of the service pass around basket and let people choose their own mini candy bars...)