The Beginning of Lent

The sign of the cross, received by millions on Ash Wednesday

Tonight Jennifer and I joined about 100 community members and University of Illinois students at an Ash Wednesday service at Twin City Bible Church in Urbana, IL.  Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40 day period leading up to Easter.

After gathering in silence …

* We shared in a responsive reading from Psalm 139.  “Search me, O Lord, and know my heart.”

* We joined in a time of confession of sins committed in thought, word and deed.  We wrote our sins on a piece of paper, dropped them in a kiln in the front of the auditorium and one of the pastors lighted them on fire.

* We prayed, “The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

* We walked to the front where one of the pastors made the sign of the cross on our foreheads with his finger dipped in black ash.  Ashes symbolize the attitude of repentance that is to characterize our lives during Lent.  Marking our foreheads with ashes with the sign of the cross identified us with Jesus, showing that we belong to him.

* With ashes on our foreheads we all prayed in unison:  “As for man, his days are like grass.  He flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

—–

 The church’s observance of Ash Wednesday dates back more than 1500 years.  We joined tens of millions of saints who celebrated Ash Wednesday today, as they, and we, began to prepare our hearts to celebrate the central event of our lives:  the death and resurrection Jesus.

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