“Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world” 
So writes Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Liturgical Year. And indeed, as we enter into this season of the church year called Lent, we do this peculiar thing of looking past ourselves to Christ Himself. It’s not often we’re called upon in this world to look beyond ourselves. More often than not we’re told to “Speak our minds”, “Look out for Number One”, or “Live and let live”. But Lent, and indeed the entirety of the Christian life, is about looking beyond ourselves and looking to Jesus.
So tonight we begin this task anew by smearing our foreheads with ashes. Again, such an odd thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like being in a secret club because we go about our day and exchange smiles with those we know are “in the know”. But ashes on our forehead aren’t akin to a secret handshake. No, the ashes are themselves the entrance into the season when we abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self. They remind us each time we are tempted to gaze upon ourselves we are simply adoring what will, one day, be only dust. For “we are from dust and to dust we shall return”.
The centuries-long practice of fasting during Lent is also a clear reminder that we ought to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self. Rather than seek self-satisfaction and or be constantly controlled by our rumbling bellies, fasting teaches us again to look past the shrine of the self and once again to Christ. Fasting, properly done, sends us to Jesus for our sustenance.
Jesus himself took up the practice of fasting. For 40 days He went without food in the wilderness and then was tempted by the devil. So this evening we will “Behold the Man” who looked past Himself, setting His eyes, from the very beginning of His public ministry, on the will of His Heavenly Father. All this He did for you. Thus, this Ash Wednesday we look beyond our human frailty to Jesus who, though He became human, could not be held in the tomb. And because He could not be held by death, neither shall we!
Join us this evening for Ash Wednesday!
Potluck dinner at 6pm
Worship with imposition of ashes and Holy Communion at 7pm
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 Chittister, Joan. 2010. The Liturgical Year. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.