Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s a day of reflection and repentance. Many churches honor this day by marking the foreheads of penitents with ashes in the shape of a cross. Ash Wednesday is not mentioned in the Bible, but ashes are.
Therefore I despise myselfJob 42:6 NIV
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Daniel 9:3 NIV
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
Repentance in the Old Testament is tied to rescue from exile. It means returning to God’s presence, man and God dwelling together. In New Testament, repentance has an additional subtlety of agreeing with God, agreeing with God that His ways are best, turning from our own ways, getting in step with God. Repentance is not a threat of doom. Instead, it is about grace, mercy, shalom, flourishing in God’s presence. Repentance paves the way for abundant living – not “health, wealth” as in prosperity gospel – but the abundance that comes from living at peace with our God.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!Psalm 31:19 ESV
As you sit with these words for a minute, in what ways are you experiencing the grace and mercy of God, the abundant life He has for you? And in what area, might repentance be needed?
The awareness of sin is the inevitableJohn Shea
consequence of having met grace…
This grace-judgment dynamic reveals
that the center of Christian life is repentance. …
Repentance is the response to grace that
overcomes the past and opens out to a new future. …
Feeling sorry, acknowledging guilt, and prolonging regret
may be components of the human condition,
but they are not what Jesus means by repentance.
Repentance distinguishes Christian life as one of struggle and conversion and pervades it, not with remorse, but with hope.
Isaiah records God’s words, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15) May that last phrase not apply to us! Instead, let’s find our salvation in repentance and rest, our strength in quietness and trust. A great verse to begin this season of Lent.
“Hear, Lord, and be gracious to me;Psalm 30:10-11 NASB
Lord, be my helper.
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have untied my sackcloth and encircled me with joy –
Almighty and everlasting God,Book of Common Prayer
you hate nothing you have made,
and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins and
acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you,
the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.