Around school on Wednesday, some students wandered with smudges across their foreheads or on their wrists. If one were to look closely, they could see the shadowy outline of the cross of Christ.
For Wednesday, was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of a yearly journey, a walk with Jesus to Easter.
If we were to talk about Ashes in the greater part of Australian society, most would understand ‘The Ashes’ as that famous cricket match 140 years ago when Australia beat England for the first time. As the English press pronounced that ‘English Cricket was dead,’ a group of Melbourne women burned the stumps and put them into an urn. The Ashes became a symbol of England’s great mourning.
Similarly, in the Bible, ashes were always a symbol of mourning. This sadness is not only the loss of loved ones following their death, but it also is the lament of the future. When someone dies, we lament and mourn the time that is no longer available to us.
Lament, a period of grief when times are tough, is not something we in Western Culture do well. We are much better at distracting ourselves from pain, numbing ourselves from shame and ignoring the fact that we are not permanent. To be involved in this season of Lent (and lament) is to remember that eventually our time will end.
But then, out of heaven, from this time of mourning, God shows up with the promise in Jesus, his Son. Although this present life is not permanent, eternal life with him has been granted. And ashes on the forehead are a sign of that promise.
Because we are in the midst of a difficult season, flooding, disease, war and other struggles, maybe it’s a great time to talk about the hope we have in Jesus.
God’s peace to you during the season of Lent and our joy for Easter.