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By Pamela Gompf
Pointe of Grace Lutheran Church 

Get Your Ash in Church


Last updated 2/19/2020 at 11:50am

What was a season of fear and sadness as a child, I have come to realize as a time of hope. I remember growing up with a Catholic father who insisted on fish every Friday, and yet we never attended Mass. Instead I went to a Lutheran church with my father, and Catholic Mass with my mother.

Every year in mid-winter, both communities practiced Lent – a season of reflection, repentance and renewal. It began with Ash Wednesday, where an ash cross was placed on one’s forehead, and was followed by 40 days of a sorrowful feeling.

As a child it was a dreary time. We were told to give things up like meat and chocolate and sweets, or maybe all animal products. Maybe you had a similar raising or experience of Lent.

But what is Lent and Ash Wednesday really all about? The Lutheran faith teaches it is a time to remember the 40 days of temptation, which Jesus experienced in the wilderness. We also remember the 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

It is a time to re-examine ourselves and our own journeys in the world’s wilderness today. It is a time to give daily pause and realize how God does not abandon us, but keeps near our side to help us through those temptations and tribulations and times of wilderness traveling. It is a time to remember our mortality, and cry out to God as the Israelites did, and mourn in the ashes of our broken sinful natures.

For many Christians, the start of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday begins 40 days of giving up or forgoing something we hold tight. Maybe it is a food item or an entire meal where we fast and instead take the monies that would have been spent, giving it to feeding those without.

A special practice of giving to others in need is a Lenten practice. Fasting from what gets in our way of a relationship with God is a common practice during Lent, too. Maybe it’s food, maybe it’s social media, or overworking, or being negative. What gets in the way of your relationship with your Creator or with others? How do you give towards others in need?

I like to think of Lent NOT as a dreary or scary time of self-suffering, sacrifice, or focusing on our mortality, but of renewing a relationship with my God, my Creator. No matter how long one has been away from a dear friend, you can always pick back up where you left off.

I believe God is this type of God and friend. Lent is where I take time to reflect on my daily living and ask the hard questions of myself on how I allow God to change my ways, and make them God’s ways of justice, mercy and unconditional love towards others. When I wear an ash cross on my forehead, it reminds me that I am mortal and will return to the dust from where I came, BUT ... that the grave does not have the final say.

It is a time for me to know the story, which is coming, of Jesus dying on a cross for the sin of the world – including my own – and still proclaiming love and forgiveness with his arms nailed and outstretched. It is a time for me to remember that the same crucified Christ conquered the grave – that as I return to dust someday, I will also return fully to my Creator and will be alive again in Christ.

Lent is a time to be remorseful and repentant about what I have failed to do, yet also joyful about how God will hold my imperfection and brokenness and still love me where I’m at.

If you choose to be a part of this tradition of reflection, repentance and renewal of relationship with your Creator this Lenten season, and choose to have an ash cross placed on your head, remember it is a symbol of love and forgiveness you wear. Where you are claimed and called beloved as you are, because Jesus meets us where we are, here and now.

So maybe you’ll get your ash in church, or maybe you’ll find me at the Starbucks up the street that Wednesday to get your ash cross there.Either way, we begin an amazing journey together realizing and rejoicing that we are loved by an amazing God.

Ash Wednesday service at Pointe of Grace Lutheran Church will be at 6:30 p.m., with a soup potluck at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Imposition of Ashes will be done earlier in the day at lunchtime at Harbour Pointe Starbucks if you are unable to attend service. All are welcome. Come as you are.


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