By Lance Mayes
I spent yesterday learning about advocacy — how to give a voice to the voiceless and marginalized. I specifically learned about immigration, the child welfare system, and general advocacy. Today I get to talk with my representative and senator about what I’ve learned and what I think about bills that have been introduced.
The biggest lesson that I have learned is to keep the conversation open and going. This involves lots of listening and humility. It is easier to do this (especially with those you disagree with) when you remember that all people are made in the image of God.
What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday?
In Psalm 51:1-17 you see prayers like:
- “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.”
- “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.”
- “Oh, give me back my joy again.”
- “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
These prayers keep us humble. If we keep these prayers in our minds and on our hearts, our advocacy for the voiceless and marginalized can be greater. We need to remember:
- From dust we came and to dust we shall return
- We are sinners
- We are mortal
- God provides mercy, love and joy to all (even those I disagree with)
The journey through Lent begins with taking a hard look inside and acknowledging the ugly parts we want to hide. The journey begins on Ash Wednesday with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads reminding us of our mortality and need for repentance.
Join us Wednesday, March 1 at 6:15 in the Sanctuary for our Ash Wednesday Service. Let’s individually and corporately remember we are all the same — we are all image-bearers and sinners. We all receive God’s mercy, love and joy. We must humbly listen more. And we must boldly (in love and respect) speak up.
By Lance Mayes
Lent. Growing up Baptist, I was not too familiar with this practice. My Catholic friends would give up caffeine or chocolate, but I was never really sure why. I knew it had something to do with the weeks leading up to Easter.
I know a little more now. I have learned about Ash Wednesday and the practice of reflecting on repentance and mortality and the imposition of ashes. It is a reminder that we are all sinners.
We sometimes deal with sin in one of a couple of ways. We either suffer with incredible guilt or we just ignore that we are sinners.
Yes, we are all guilty; there is no getting around that. We can relate with the Psalmist: “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.” However, we don’t have to wallow in guilt. Because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our sin is washed away and we don’t have to bear the guilt any more.
On the other hand, sometimes it is easier to just forget that we are sinners. We have been made clean by Jesus and put it all behind us. But the fact remains that we are sinners who have been forgiven. We still stumble and fall. We do things we shouldn’t and don’t do things we should. We sin. We need to go to God and confess: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight … Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. … Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.”
On this Ash Wednesday, let’s remember that we are sinners. We are mortal. We are without hope by ourselves. Our hope is in Jesus and our “God who saves.” God, “remove the stain of my guilt… restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.”
We can recognize our sin without keeping the guilt. We can have joy now because Jesus makes us all “whiter than snow.”
40 days of Lent. 40 days of reflection. 40 days of remembering. Use this season of Lent to grow closer to God. Take these 40 days and re-focus yourself to be more like Jesus and let God change your heart. Give something up if you want, but replace it with a spiritual discipline (something like prayer, Scripture reading, service or giving).
To learn more about Lent click here.
By Garrett Vickrey
One night while I was a student at Baylor University I stepped into a Catfish King in Waco, TX to grab a bite to eat. The place was packed. A friend and I took the last available table. Who knew so many people went out for catfish on Wednesday nights? But, there was something else that connected all these people besides a hunger for fish that night. Ashes.
A prepubescent kid darted by my shoulder on his way to refill his cup at the drink machine; an ash cross was on his forehead. His father yelled at him to slow down. His wrinkled brow revealed ashes on his forehead too. As my friend and I looked around the restaurant we noticed we were the only people there without an ash cross on our forehead. It was Ash Wednesday at Catfish King. If you were Catholic AND following the tradition to fast from eating meat during Lent AND you don’t consider catfish meat AND you live in Waco, THEN the Catfish King was the place to be. So why not enjoy some golden fried catfish and hush puppies before we all return to dust?
The ash cross marked on the forehead was familiar to me. I grew up in a rare baptist church that observed Ash Wednesday. What struck me was the fact that I had gone through that day like any other forgetting that hallowed day with its simple message— We are dust and to dust we shall return.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of the hunger we all share for something more. At our core we all know our dependence though we rarely acknowledge it. We all know our mortality though we ignore it.
Ash Wednesday is about remembering that life is more than what we feel, what we can reason, what we can see. We are more than the dust from which we were made and the ash to which we will return. We are God’s dust.
We love to avoid thinking about our dependence… we love to avoid thinking about vulnerability much less mortality. We’ve got photoshop to cover up our flaws, and cemeteries on the edge of town to keep some distance between us and our thoughts of mortality. That’s why we need a day like this to remind us what we’re made of. Dust and matter. Atoms, neurons. Energy and data.
More than this, we are God’s dusty artwork crafted in carbon. We were once cradled by holy hands who breathed life into our flimsy lungs. We need at least one day to remember all this. In fact, go ahead and take 40 days. We can think about other things when we get to the empty tomb.