Growing up Baptist, the liturgical traditions are not always the most familiar to me. Of course, yesterday, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten Season for the Christian church. Only as an adult did I learn about the practice of giving things up for Lent, and even later than that about the observance of Ash Wednesday. Though I've participate in Ash Wednesday observances, several things struck me differently this year.
First, if you read this blog often, you'll remember that I've had a bit of an infatuation with the book of Job for about a year now. If you watch the t.v. show Lost, I'm convinced that the plot has something to do with the plot of this book. I seem to be finding "Job" in many areas of my life, but the more Job comes to mind, the more his story points me to Christ. As I received the ashes last night, I remembered that Job, after hearing from God says "my ears had heard of you now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Faced with the tangible reality of God, Job recognized the only possible response was to acknowledge that God is God and he is not, to see the greatness of God compared to the frailty of man and experience the gratitude of grace that God is indeed mindful of us.
Second, I noticed a phrase from our pastor for the first time as he said he would "impose" the ashes. It seems so strange that we would enter the Lenten season with an "imposition" on us. Indeed, the act of giving something up for Lent may in itself seem like an imposition on our daily life. But this is a beautiful idea. Christ has imposed himself on us, and taking the sign of the cross on ourselves becomes a sign that we willingly accept the "imposition" of the cross. Jesus said that we must "take up our cross daily." Sounds rather unappealing that Jesus would become an imposition on our life. Who wants that?
I do. I will take the imposition of the cross, the burden of Jesus, become a slave to Christ, because the impositions of the world on my life are far too taxing, the burdens I create for myself too heavy to bear, and the masters of money, food, media, and habits demand more than I can keep up with. May your Lenten journey show you the way to the cross, where you may lay down your life to save it.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.