On Wednesday, February 13, our church will begin its observance of Lent with an Ash Wednesday service. We will share supper in the Dining Room and then gather in the sanctuary for worship, joining our sisters and brothers from around the world in having ashes placed on our foreheads as a symbol of our penitence.
The ashes are mixed with oil, and this mixture reminds us of important truths of our life and faith. Life is a mixture of joy and pain, sorrow and hope. The ashes are a sign of pain and sorrow, which comes when we remember both our sinfulness and Christ’s self-giving love. The oil is a sign of renewal and hope. So, when have ashes placed on our foreheads, we carry with us both the ashes of regret and the oil of renewal.
During the first five Sundays of Lent, we will use Luke 15 as our focal Scripture. This chapter contains some of the most beloved of Jesus’ parables. We will consider the audience for Jesus’ parables, which was composed of religious outsiders (tax collectors and sinners who came to hear Jesus) and insiders (Pharisees and scribes who grumbled). We will encounter three parables of lost things, and then we will take time to focus on the different characters in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lost Brother, and the Loving Father.
As part of your Lenten practices, you are invited to read a book by Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which he wrote after viewing the painting of the same name by Rembrandt. We will read and reflect on chapters of this book during the weeks of Lent, and you are invited to join this communal practice.
I look forward to sharing with you these important worship experiences, and I am grateful to walk with you on the journey of our lives.