Wednesday

‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. (v. 19-20)

Luke 15:11-32 Wednesday 6 March 2019

Psalm: Psalm 51

Background

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that symbolises repentance. Services are held during which last year’s Palm crosses are burnt and the ash used to mark the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who wish to show that they are aware of their constant battle to turn their lives towards God. But the gesture must be sincere.

Ashes come from crosses symbolically palm-leafed for joyful jubilation,
yet shaped for betrayal and condemnation.
Crosses carried last Lent
as emblems of enlightenment and hand-held holiness,
now tired and tainted by a year of faults and failing to follow
the sacrificial example set by the crucified Christ.

So ashes of symbols become badges of repentance to be warily worn,
not as a display of duty to be proudly presented as an outward sign of hollow holiness,
but as a reminder of those times when our hopes turn to ashes,
as our welcoming of Christ’s kingdom is overwhelmed by the opinions of the crowd
and easily influenced into denial and defeat.

But then we read the story of the prodigal son: a lad too impetuous and selfish to wait for his inheritance and too foolish to use it wisely when he got it. His father was heartbroken, but hopeful, and his elder brother glad to be rid of him. The lad himself had a riotous time until his money ran out and he was homeless and friendless and living amongst the pigs. Total despair jolted him back to his senses and, without any hope of a welcome, he made his way back to his father to admit his failure and to confess how wrong his behaviour had been.

If repentance comes too late to be able to say, ‘sorry,’
then the guilt lies heavy and forgiveness appears impossible.

So when realisation points to the lesson
that the wrong choice was made and acted upon,
it would be wise to reverse the process,
turn around and head back to face the music. 

God waits and watches and welcomes with open arms,
those who return with the sorrow of their sin trailing in the dust of despair.

God forgives.
God loves.
God renews.

This is the real purpose of Ash Wednesday.

 

To Ponder:

  • When you know your behaviour has hurt someone else, how do you deal with it?
  • How do you feel about the symbolism of Ash Wednesday?
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