Ashes/ Dust

It’s time to Declutter, Discard, and Decide What Is Essential

Many of us have the potential to become full-fledged hoarders. Television programs where folks with stuffed homes must decide what to keep or sell, what to donate, and what to trash make me feel that our house isn’t that cluttered after all.

It has been my experience that we do accumulate more things or stuff than we use repeatedly or are essential for our lives. Likewise, our spiritual lives can become cluttered with our favorite sins, wrong attitudes, and actions that need to be recognized, confessed, and trashed to give room for what is essential to our faith. Therefore, the Church Season of Lent can be a spiritual cleaning and refreshing of our souls for those willing.

The Season of Lent is a time of self-reflection where we declutter our spiritual life. It is an invitation to fast and come to terms with our lifestyle as it reflects being a Christian. It must always begin with a recognition that we do sin and fall short of obeying the fullness of God’s law despite our best intentions. Romans 3:22-23 states, “There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s law makes us conscious of our sins. However, God’s word gives us hope beyond our sins, for the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.

Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22/23) begins the church Season of Lent. Lent’s first day signals that in 46 days, we will celebrate Easter Sunday. Lent is referred to as 40 days in length as a parallel to Jesus spending forty days and nights in the desert fasting and praying after his baptism. Because we do not count Sundays as part of Lent, the result is the forty days of Lent.

There are many ways to speak of the Season of Lent. Traditionally, it has been a time of fasting, prayer, repentance, self-denial, and solemness in the awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Ash Wednesday, traditionally, features the marking with ashes on the forehead in the form of a cross. The ashes used are the remains of the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Ashes represent our mortality. Ashes remain from what is consumed by fire. When the ashes are applied to a person’s forehead, it is with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Alternately, “Repent and believe the gospel” may be said when applying the ashes.

We may ignore the reality of our sins and our ultimate death in our daily life. Sadly, we also deny the gospel; the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are hesitant to admit our humble ancestry. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the bread of life.” “All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20

In Lent, we focus on God’s love for us as sinners. “Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9, 2:1-2

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