This reminder will be in the form a little cross of ash on the forehead. The palm branches and leaves that ended the Church Season of Lent last year have been burned to ash and are now used to begin this year’s Church Season of Lent.
This dust – and all dust – reminds us that we are mortal. We will die someday. Well, probably. I mean, Jesus could come back before we die – and then there will be no more death for those who believe in Him as savior.
But the reality that I live today is that I will not get out of this life alive. And that’s ok, because for me, death is not the end. Jesus’ death was the end of my death. When my body ceases to live – when my heart stops beating and my brain stops waving – my eyes will close to this world and open to see Jesus. I will see – and live in - the new heaven and new earth. I will be with all those who fell asleep in Jesus.
In the mean time, I have been given a promise of life from Jesus Christ. He warned that “the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” But Jesus also promised us, “But I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV)
The ashes remind me that this life is not all there is. There is more to have, more to come.
The whole Season of Lent is a microcosm of life for the disciple of Jesus. We begin with a reminder of our mortality (and a great reminder to teenagers and young adults that we are only immortal for a limited time).
Then we quickly move on to a reminder that in this world we will face temptation. Many temptations, in fact, but they all come down to the same thing. We will be tempted by the devil (yes, he really exists. Jesus faced him down in the wilderness – recorded in Matthew 4). We will be tempted by the devil to question who we are and whose we are.
When the devil tempted Jesus he started two of the three temptations with the same words, “If you are the Son of God.” Right away, the devil was trying to cause doubt to rise in Jesus’ mind that He (Jesus) was who God said He was. A little over a month before this temptation, Jesus was baptized and heard the words from His Heavenly Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But Jesus hadn’t had anything to eat since then. He was tired, hungry, exhausted to the point of collapse (as I’m sure I would be if I hadn’t eaten for 40 days).
That’s when the devil strikes. When we are riding emotional highs and also at the point of exhaustion, the devil will tempt us so that we try to convince ourselves that we are not really a child of God, we are not saved, we are not worthy of God’s love, and on and on.
“It is written….”
The Word of God. The Sword of the Spirit. This is the ultimate – and only – weapon we have to fight the temptation of the devil.
Pick up your sword, and get ready to fight … and win!