This coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey. Many of us will mark this by being present in church where we will receive the imposition of ashes, the sign of the cross marked on our foreheads with the words ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ’ before we are fed with the bread and wine of communion to sustain us on our journey.
These things that we do help us to both look back and look forward; they help us be honest about our failures but encourage us with God’s faithfulness; they leave us chastened but hopeful and assured. They encourage us not to give up but to accept the challenge of Lent and to run the race sustained by the bread of life itself.
We look back because we are reminded of our baptism when that sign of the cross was first made on our forehead and, looking back, we cannot but acknowledge how our good intentions have indeed turned to dust. We are honest about our failures and our mortality. To dust we shall return. But though it may be in ash, it is still the sign of the cross that is present and in this we are reminded of all that God has done for us, of the victory of the cross, the triumph of God in Jesus Christ over sin and darkness and that we are always called on and, eventually, home. We are invited in this season to turn from sin and turn to Christ that we may be made anew in this life and in eternity. In this Lenten journey, we renew our walk, our relationship with God, that we may know again God’s great love for us, that God has indeed called us by name so that in this knowledge we may know not just life for ourselves but in how we share it with others, how we work for the coming of the Kingdom where our citizenship, all our citizenships, are called to abide.
So may I invite you again ‘in the name of the Church to the observance of a holy Lent’ and encourage you to join with others in keeping it in the words of the liturgy we shall use ‘by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s word.’
Take a look at your local parish or chaplaincy, see what is on offer, find a place where you can connect. Check out the Church of England Lent app, Dust and Glory, which you can access here, and live this Lent joyfully, expectantly, confident in the promises of God, as we walk with Jesus Christ to the cross and find life.