Last night I had the joy of sharing in an Ash Wednesday service, and was blown away by what God did in that time. We distributed ashes by having people come forward, and asking that each person would place ashes in the form of the cross on the forehead of the person behind them, being this is a symbol of humility, and of our shared humanness: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I watched as people caringly swept hair aside from one another’s forehead as they placed ashes on foreheads, many of them echoing these words as they placed the ashes, from dust you came, from dust you will return.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of lent, this time that the early church set aside as a tithe of their year (10% of 365= the 40 days of Lent). It was a time that those who wanted to become Christians, and be baptized used to prayerfully prepare themselves to become part of the visible membership of the church in the sacrament of baptism. And for us today, it is a time that is set aside for prayer and repentance, but also of service. When I hear this verse from Genesis it reminds me of the fragility of life, echoed in Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
The psalmist suggests that approaching life with a measure both of humility and urgency is a sign of wisdom. Yet so often my life could be summarized by “I will get to that one day…” It becomes a habit to wait to serve, or act, to life for Christ, until….whatever we finish that sentence with. Until we learn more, until we get older, until we get bolder, until everything is just right. Yet the psalmist prays that we would have an acute knowledge of the gift and blessing that each day is, and that we should make the most of each opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). This lent how will you make the most of each day, each opportunity to share Christ’s love, to serve others, to spend time with God?