Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. We, at St. Marks, have three opportunities to attend a service. And even though we don't have a new pastor yet, its important that you read that last sentence again...we have three services. Not because we're holier than thou or anyone else. It's because we know we need to have a service available to all of us, those who work, those who don't and every situation in between.
The origins of Ash Wednesday are probably around the 8th century. It was suggested that the pouring of ashes over the head was an appropriate way to begin the forty days of Lent. The ashes remind us that we are sorry for those things which take us from God and we hope to repent. Sackcloth and ashes (referred to in the Bible frequently) were the way to show people understood they had been wrong in something and they knew it; so to show of their turning around (which is what repentance is all about), they donned these outward signs to demonstrate the inward changing of their hearts. Ash Wednesday is not commanded in the Bible. But it is a very visible way for us to begin our introspection of our life and devotion to God during these next few weeks. We don't pour ashes over our heads, but we do mark the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Or you can opt out of that particular practice. Because really, its all about your repentance, not mine. My turning around, not yours. God's acceptance of all of us, not our universal acceptance of each other. Lent is a time of thinking about our relationship to God. It is not about comparing our piety to each other.
I hope you will join us in our walk this Lent. We have a light supper each Wednesday at 6:00 pm, followed by a service at 7:00 pm. Pastor George Dietrich will lead a discussion after the service on a book entitled, The Three Day Feast by Gail Ramshaw. We encourage you to join us as we turn around and face another year of Sharing Hope at St. Mark's.