Month of February
Four “secular” holidays occur this month – Ground Hog Day (a day for repetition and anticipation), the Super Bowl (a clash between two major powers), Valentine’s Day (a day for love), and Presidents’ Day (honoring our tradition of leaders). In addition, we churchy folks plunk another day right in the middle of this month with Ash Wednesday.
I believe Ash Wednesday is marked not only by the smudge of ashes on foreheads at worship, but Ash Wednesday is a day which includes repetition and anticipation, recognizes a clash between two powers, is a day for love, and honors our leaders.
Certainly the ancient Rite on Ash Wednesday of marking the sign of the cross dominates the day. But why mark this day? Is it merely going through the motions of an ancient practice, a repetition of the past? Or is this a repetition that recognizes that sin repeatedly enters our world, that we repeatedly remember its presence and persistence? And do we not anticipate our death and Christ’s triumph? That black cross admits death exists, but then proclaims the cross of Christ is greater and overcomes the threat of death.
This Ash Wednesday indeed marks the clash between two great powers – the fullness of God, demonstrated in Christ’s triumph, versus the opposing team of sin, death, and the devil. The best thing is that unlike the Super Bowl, we can already bet on a winner, count on Christ. Give us a “J;” give us a “E;” give us a “S;” give us a “U;” give us a “S.” What’s that spell? “Jesus” What’s that spell? The ultimate end of sin, death, and the devil.
And there is the ultimate expression of love. Instead of giving up on humans because of our shortcomings or failures, instead of just randomly firing at a special few with arrows of love, “God so loved the world that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Love indeed!
And we are not left alone to figure this out by ourselves. We have a leader – that Jesus, whose cross marks our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, leads us from the worship service by sending the Holy Spirit into the world – teaching us, directing us, demonstrating the fullness of life, leading us now and into life eternal. Sure there are other leaders along the way – family, teachers, supervisors, presidents. But ultimately all, ALL, pale in comparison to Christ.