A Contemplative Lenten Experience: Ash Wednesday
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Joel 2: 13 (NLT)
The forty-day period of reflection prior to Easter begins with what we call ‘Ash Wednesday’. Traditionally Christians bear a cross marked on their foreheads. The cross is marked using ashes (typically ashes from the previous years palm branches used during Palm Sunday). Ash Wednesday is a day set aside as a reminder of our need for a savior.
In our reflection we juxtapose our futility; with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We remember God’s faithfulness as we look back at the Ebenezers we have raised. We remember the mighty acts of the Lord Almighty. We rejoice in knowing Him and we remember how much we need Him.
The above visual uses Warli characters to portray an Ebenezer raised in a community. The mighty act of God in a single person’s life is shared with the whole community. And there is great rejoicing over the Almighty God.
Take a few moments to think of your Ebenezers. Share them with others if you are doing this in a group setting.
As we bring to the forefront of our memories the mighty acts of God, we recognise that we could not have done anything without God’s help. Sometimes God has done mighty acts in spite of what we have not done or what we may have done. Let’s think about areas in our lives we have failed God, or we have yielded to our fallen nature.
In Psalm 139:23 the Psalmist reminds us that Introspection is through the Holy Spirit and not something done in and by ourselves. Do read the following scripture prayerfully as you engage in a time of introspection.
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.(Psalm 139:23)
Take a piece of paper and pen as you invite the Holy Spirit to show you areas He is displeased with. Draw or write what was revealed. Open the space for those who would like to share areas of concern or failure (areas of struggle). Please do not force anyone. Acknowledge the need for forgiveness. Prayerfully burn these papers (failures/ struggles). Watch the papers burn and consume what you have written only to be left without a trace. Observe the colors of the flame. Such is the power of God’s love to us. Return to the Lord and He will embrace you. Call on Him for forgiveness and He will.
Now use these ashes as a reminder of the death we should face if not for Jesus’ sacrifice. We will not face separation from our Creator God because of Jesus. So don’t let this meaningful time of Lent go by without recognising who God is and the Hope in forgiveness He offers us.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish. Joel 2:13
This is the blessing of being a Christ follower.
Dear Lord I want to be wholly yours. Lord, thank you for your mercy and for your forgiveness. Gracious God, please would you help me live this abundant life you have called me to. Thank you Jesus. It’s in your name we pray. Amen