It isn't just a tradition, for I didn't start celebrating Ash Wednesday until I became an adult.
It isn't just a day of ashes for me, because it is a day of hope, a day when I look beyond this mortality to the eternity beyond it.
It is a day when I celebrate the goodness of God who loves each of us (even me) despite all of our sins (even mine).
Tonight, I'll be speaking at an Ash Wednesday service. My pastor is out of town and he asked a group of us to speak and to lead worship. I've done it before, but it is still an honor and a blessing to get asked. Three of us are speaking.
I get to speak about dependence. Here's my rough draft:
Do you remember your birth?
Your first step?
The first time you dumped your food on the floor?
Or, when you and your sister made a mess in the kitchen for the first time?
I don’t either.
But, my children, although they are now teenagers, reminded me.
I helped them take their first stumbling steps,
carried them when they were tired,
cleaned up the mess in the kitchen,
and I loved them and love them, now.
And, I’m not as good as God.
In the midst of the blessings, I had moments of frustration. I hid my daughters' favorite stained shirts from them and made them wear the clothes I thought were good enough for worship. I slowed them down in their enthusiastic race to the cross because running isn’t okay in church. I lost my temper with their stumbling. I sinned, and only God could help me up as a parent, and as His child.
We are all God’s children. We are still learning to walk, still helpless, still covered in jam and mud and flour. We still need God’s embrace, his love, his guidance.
Young children depend on their parents. They need our help and they aren’t too shy or prideful to ask for it when they are tired and down. They want to be picked up, helped through tricky places, and sung to sleep at night. They admit they have needs and they can’t make everything happen themselves.
And, when they want to wear their favorite mustard-stained shirt that they feel is their best and run to Jesus with open arms covered in mud, flour, and sticky jam, we might want to follow their lead.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15
We need to let go of our pride, our “do it ourselves” independence and depend wholly on Jesus.
If we can do that, we can enter his embrace.
“And he (Jesus) took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:16