So I went to Mass this morning– Ash Wednesday. No, I’m not Catholic and don’t plan to become one. But there’s something about the liturgy, the movement, the traditions that I’m drawn to at times. To be honest, I felt pretty awkward in the service- I didn’t know the right words for many of the responses, took my cues from other people about when to sit, stand, kneel, and so on. It made me wonder how our church feels to people who are new– do we make folks feel awkward or uncomfortable? Something to look at, for sure. But I digress.
My favorite moment this morning was when I went forward to have the ash placed on my forehead. Besides
the fact that, as a guy, it seems cool to have someone make you dirty on purpose, I loved the tangible, tactile reminder of our mortality: We are as fleeting as this ash, and to dust our bodies will return. So crucial to remember that my life is “a mist and a vapor”- and so it matters that I live fully and well. But it was the words that were said over me that really caught my attention.
“Repent and believe the gospel.” 5 words. Simple and profound. A call to live in awareness of both my sinfulness and the forgiveness I claim because of what Jesus has done for me. A command to keep turning my heart–inwardly in self-examination, upward in repentance, outward toward others. A reminder to keep believing the only truth that gives real freedom: the gospel. Truth that others have said so well: I’m more sinful than I dared believe, and more loved than I ever imagined. So true. So good. So important.
So welcome to Lent. Let’s do that very thing, all who are willing. Repent. And believe the gospel.