Tag Archives: repentance

Ash Wednesday Is 5 Weeks Away!

ashesFive weeks away, Ash Wednesday marks the official start of the 40-day Lenten season and is hallmarked by the placing of ashes on the foreheads of parishioners while saying the ancient words from Scripture, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Traditionally made by the burning of the palm leaves from the previous Palm Sunday, the ashes symbolize our mortality as well as our sorrow over our sins. The practice harkens back to Old Testament days when God’s people wore sackcloth and ashes to visually show to God and those around them the depth of their repentance for their wayward behavior. The prophet Jeremiah called for repentance by saying: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26). Today wearing ashes on our heads in the shape of a cross becomes a reminder to us and a witness to others who see us wearing these ashen crosses that we firmly believe that though we will one day die, we know we will one day be made alive again forevermore, forgiven and free through the precious cross of Christ.

Arms

armsWe sang the song “O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship a few Sundays ago in church, and I was struck by this refrain:

The Father’s arms are open wide.

As those words were woven into the lyrics and repeated throughout, the powerful meaning of that image filled me with comfort and confidence. No matter where I have been, what I have done, when I return to him in repentance, God’s arms are always open wide to receive me.

There is a moment in the youtube version of the song link below where the audience sings these words in unison, and I can feel the collective relief and unburdening in the people’s voices. Take a listen, if you have a moment here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA

I am reminded of the scene in the story of the Prodigal Son when the father sees his wayward son from a distance and runs with arms open wide to embrace him. At the very heart of our relationship with God is a longing and desire to be wrapped in his embrace and surrounded by the peace, security and strength only he can provide.

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The Advance Team

advance teamIn Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, Michael Kelley compares the Church to a military advance team called the Delta Force. “The Delta Force is an advance team of specially trained agents who act as the precursor for the army. They perform secret missions, do the hard prep work, and engage the enemy before the entire army arrives. They are the ones who announce that the full army is going to invade” (p. 104).

I like the picture that paints of the value and position of the church. We are doing necessary and important work. Our calling is to wake people up to the reality of what is yet to come: the holy invasion of Christ and all his angels to take believers back with him to heaven.

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