What a happy happenstance that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday collide today. I want to take you back to Ash Wednesday, 2011, for a delightful (Divine) Love Story … My blog post from back then …
For it pleased the Father that in [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. (Colossians 1:19-22)
“The oddest thing in the world … is a cheerless Christian.” That’s what the article from The Anglican Digest said. And why is that so? Because the Bible says:
“There is … now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We of all people have been set free from the weight of sin and death!
My sister sent me the article because she’s a lay reader and her church, and she says when she reads a Scripture like that, she wonders why people don’t break into cheers, or at least sit there and grin idiotically.
Then last night at my church’s Ash Wednesday service, our Pastor Alan preached on Colossians 1:21-22, which says, “You, who once were … enemies … yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”
What do you know? Cheers and shouts of praise broke out! Yes! We are redeemed!
And, because we are Protestants and don’t know what we are doing, the officiant who imposed the ashes on my forehead said, “There is now no condemnation for you” rather than the traditional “From dust you come and to dust you will return.” I was literally stunned with the amazing truth of it!
Thank God the next thing I had to do in this service was kneel at the cross, because my knees started to buckle when he said it, and I could hardly have stood a moment longer under this weight of glory.
Meanwhile our crazy worship band had started singing that David Crowder Band song, “How He Loves,” and when I got back to my seat, many of us hyper-graced folks were on our feet, hands waving, bellowing along, “Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss/ And my heart turns violently inside of my chest” — which was exactly how I felt — “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way/He loves us, Oh, how He loves us …”
Bah, I have tears in my eyes writing about it right now. He loves us, and the sacrament of His death on the cross was like a tiny glimpse of how He loves us — freely, fully, endlessly, overwhelmingly, with nothing held back, and certainly nothing that condemns.
If you receive the ashes today with the thought of mortifying your pleasures and partaking in Christ’s suffering, that’s good. Better still, as far as I can see, is to receive them as the symbol of His love for you and revel in the power of resurrection. Cheer and grin like an idiot. It’s really the only response.