Every year on the Wednesday six and-a-half weeks before Easter Day, many in the church set off on a prayerful journey together. While we know that the cross, and ultimately the resurrection is our destination, we do not know what experiences and insights will meet us on our journey.
Ash Wednesday is an invitation to reflect and prepare for Easter. You might reflect on all of the ways that we prepare for a journey or prepare for an important change in our life like a wedding or the birth of a baby. However, unlike those joyful celebrations, we are preparing ourselves for repentance. This is a time to identify the ways that we have turned away from God, repent of those, and return. It is also a time to remind the each other that our confession and repentance is grounded in God’s love and mercy. We do not repent so that God will love us but rather because God loves us.
Ultimately, Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality. We are all on a journey that will end with our death – we are indeed ashes, and, one day, we will return to the earth from which we were formed. But we also declare that this is not the end but only the beginning of a journey that will last through eternity.
This year I have intentionally chosen songs that put the focus not on me and what I’m doing and how I’m disciplining myself (which is so often the tragic focus of Lent) but on the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and his power to rescue and save from sin!
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Theologically, this song talks about our need for God’s help (“tune my heart to sing thy grace”), God’s pursuit of us in Christ (“Jesus sought me, when a stranger…”), Jesus’ death (“…interposed his precious blood), and how he sanctifies us (“let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee”).
During the imposition of ashes:
Before the Throne of God Above
This song continually points us upward. A great song to sing anytime, at any service, for any reason, but especially when people might be tempted to look elsewhere.
Rock of Ages Cleft for Me
A good reminder that the “cure” for sin isn’t in our trying harder, but in the “…blood, from Thy crimson side that flowed”, and “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling”.
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah
This is a confession of our weakness and need, which puts the focus on God’s sufficiency to save, feed, guide, and sustain us.
I’m looking forward to seeing you there,
Your friend in Jesus,