Ash Wednesday: American Jesus and First Steps

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season on the liturgical calendar called Lent. Many Christian traditions participate in different activities over the next 40+ days. Some will receive ashes on their forehead. The ashes come from the palm leaves used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration. The ashes are a sign to indicate that we were created from dust and we will return to dust; they also symbolize grief because of our sin. The 40 day period is a time when many will participate in fasting (abstaining); primarily from food, but several people will choose something else to fast from, such as social media or alcohol. This is a time that leads to Easter, which on the Christian calendar marks the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Now I know that not all of the readers of this blog participate in religious practices. And I know that many of my readers who are Christian do not participate in Ash Wednesday or Lent. However, for the past several years, it is a practice I have added to my spiritual routine. And I have been greatly blessed because of it.

ash-wednesday

So this year, I am going to write a blog about my Lenten journey. 40 posts in 47 days (I will not post on Sundays). What will I be writing about? Good question…

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I am weary. I am tired. I am in despair. I am troubled because I see in too many people who claim the same faith I do an Americanization of that faith. Too many people put the emphasis on “American” in the term “American Christian.”

And I realize that I am guilty of this, as well. I want to be a person of reconciliation. I want to be a person who remembers where my faith should dwell (although it often doesn’t). I want to remember that my primary allegiance is not to a country or a political ideology. I want to remember that relationship is more important than being right.

At the same time, I want to be a person that lives what I believe. I want to stand up for what is right. I want to stand up for those who are marginalized. And I want to know the best ways to do this. Ways that are not knee-jerking emotional responses, but are responses to my spirituality.

I want to learn how:

  • To break away from putting faith and trust in civic government.
  • To remember that earthly power is temporary.
  • To remember my citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • To open my eyes to the marginalized and oppressed people that I see every day.
  • To remember that I am called to love—the person of color, the foreigner, the poor, the LGBT+ community, those who vote differently.
  • To hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people.
  • To remember that hope is stronger than despair.

Today is Ash Wednesday. “From dust we came, to dust we return.” “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” I have become arrogant. I have trusted in my own power and influence; and in that of those who agree with me. I have believed that the answer to the world’s problems lies in the world’s power. I have begun to believe that my life, power, and influence will be permanent.

I need to remember that I am truly weak. I do not have the power to accomplish any of this. But I believe in someone who can. So what do I do next?

My first step is simple and seems entirely insignificant. I confess my sin. I allow ashes to be put on my forehead. I say that my life is temporary and my sin is real. I say that I will trust in God before I trust in anyone else.

It is a small step, but I must take it. Because if I don’t I will perpetually stay in the same place of frustration and despair.

It is the first day. I am already weary. But I am too tired to stay in this same place. So here I go with my first step.