Ash Wednesday Forgiveness


“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” - Luke 23:34a

Let me begin by asking you a couple of questions . . .
1. Do you take time on a regular basis to confess your sins so that you might enjoy the freedom of forgiveness?
2. Do you on a regular bases offer the same forgiveness to those who have wronged you?
3. Do you need to experience God’s forgiveness in a fresh way this Lenten season?

It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the point of the cross, after all. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity.

But the forgiveness of God through Christ doesn’t come only to those who don’t know what they are doing when they sin. In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness even when we do what we know to be wrong. God chooses to wipe away our sins, not because we have some convenient excuse, and not because we have tried hard to make up for them, but because he is a God of amazing grace, with mercies that are new every morning.

As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ. As John writes in his first letter, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin. We are united with God the Father as his beloved children. We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns. God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” Forgiveness has been offered to me . . . and to YOU!

The season of Lent beckons us to see what we are clinging to. This season draws us into a wilderness in which we can more readily see what we have shaped our daily lives around: bad habits, evil practices, great possessions, important commitments, daily conflicts, unhealthy relationships—all the stuff that we give ourselves to in a way that sometimes becomes more instinctual than intentional. Much as Jesus went into the desert to pray and fast for forty days, Lent offers us a landscape that calls us to look at our lives from a different perspective, to perceive what is essential and also what is extraneous.

At the core Lent is a recognition that in giving up something precious to us, we are better able to make room for God. Lent challenges us to see and sort through what we are attached to. We are urged to remember that being discreet about our practices helps guard against the possibility of becoming overly identified with them or prideful of them, for God compels us to root out whatever habit stands in the way of the hospitality to which God calls us.

In this ritual of Ash Wednesday, which begins our Lenten journey, we receive a cross-shaped smudge on our forehead. The ashen sign reminds us of what we are fashioned from, and to what we will return. It initiates and impels us into the wilderness where we remember what is most essential to us. It is a dark, stark mark. At the heart of this season, however, is a call to remember that something gleams among the ashes. We do not cling to the ashes for the sake of ashes, nor to the wilderness, nor to the outer form of whatever practice God gives us. Lent beckons us to cling to the One who dwells within: Christ our Light, who desires us to receive His hospitality even—and perhaps especially—among ashes.
What habits are you shaping your life around?

Which of your habits are in need of pruning?

What do you feel drawn to practice in this holy season?

Lord, will you meet us in the ashes will you meet us in the ache and show your face within our sorrow and offer us your word of grace: That you are life within the dying that you abide within the dust that you are what survives the burning that you arise to make us new. And in our aching you are breathing and in our weeping you are here within the hands that bear your blessing enfolding us within your love. - Jan Richardson
Mar 6 2019