Mr Alan Yates, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, reflects on how Ash Wednesday opens the door to thankfulness and revelation.
Ash Wednesday is a day welded into my memory – thanks to growing up as a Roman Catholic. It was one of the few times in the year that we would go to a weekday Mass before school. I used to have quite a long bus journey in the mornings so to go to Mass beforehand meant a very early start for a teenager: one of those rare occasions when I realised there were two 6 o’clocks in a day!
Whilst I did used to feel rather self-conscious with an ash cross on my forehead, it wasn’t so bad when I got to my Catholic school as lots of other people were also sporting those ‘dirty smudges’.
So, the beginning of Lent has always loomed large for me. This year it will be a bit different because, on Ash Wednesday, I’ll be working in Sweden with a client. It happens to be quite a big day, not just because it is Lent, but it’s also the day when I will meet a business deadline for a global IT project.
However, the main reason that the start of Lent is of such importance personally remains the same, namely that it marks the period which culminates in remembering the most significant of all Christian events.
In my role as Moderator I meet a lot of faith leaders including, recently, a Druid. When I talked to her, I was surprised to hear that the Druids do honour Jesus, not as God, but as a great teacher. Yes, Jesus was a fantastic teacher but it is through Easter that we recognise him as a whole lot more. Lent gives us all the time to refresh our deep honour of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to receive his revelation afresh and to give thanks for God’s gift to humankind.
How will you use this time of refreshment and preparation? Will you stop doing something, like eating chocolate, or will you start doing something, like setting aside a time each day for daily study? If that’s the case, why not follow the URC’s daily study guide by signing up, free of charge here? Whatever you choose to do during the next 40 days, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a fruitful Lent and a glorious Easter.
PHOTO CREDIT: By Oxh973 (Own work by Jennifer Balaska) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons