“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
These are the words that echoed the sanctuary as I placed an ashed cross on the foreheads of each who came to recognize their own mortality and sinfulness. The two times in life that the cross is traced on the forehead is in the anointing with oil after baptism, and the ashes that are traced on Ash Wednesday. Both which remind us of our death to our mortal selves. The only thing is, in baptism, we are in the liturgy reminded that although there is a death in the mortal body, there is a shared resurrection in the spirit.
Yesterday, I worshiped in two Ash Wednesday services. One I felt uplifted and although penitent, was ready to be sent back out into the evil world to serve the only Being that matters eternally. In the other service, I simply felt penitent. The services were alike in many ways, but in the latter we foregone the time of Holy Communion. I believe it was this Grace that was missing from the “dismal” service. The closest resemblance I felt to this uplifting Spirit was the people’s response to these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” as they responded: “In life and in death, I belong to God.” I believe that both services focused on the dual themes of sin and death, but it was the one with Holy Communion that it did so “in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.” (United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 321) My hope and prayer is that those who attended with me leading last night does not find themselves in the dark despair of hopelessness in our own sinfulness and evil, but rather heard that even in our sinfulness and despair God loves us so much that he sent his Son and that is where we will be focusing our time during this Lenten Journey at Red Valley for worship as we focus on the 24 hours of Jesus’ life around the crucifixion.
In this regards may we be reminded of the words of Invitation from last evening: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.” (United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 322)