Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ash Wednesday

By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
 and to dust you will return. 
(Genesis 3:19)

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. We have entered a period of fasting, pentitence, reflection and preparation, as we approach the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today we are marked with ashes as a sign of penance and as a reminder that we were created by and for God, and not the other way around.
As Hannah prayed,

The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up. 
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts. 
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.
For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world. (1 Samuel 2:6-8)

It doesn't need to be a particular day for us to repent, but Ash Wednesday is a fine reminder that we can be better. God is always ready to welcome us back into His arms, to forgive us and to throw our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). It doesn't matter how long we have been turning our back on God, how bad we believe we have been, He reminds us that,“Even now... return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning,” (Joel 2:12-13) and He will be gracious, compassionate and slow to anger.

Ash Wednesday is also a reminder that there is so much wrong in the world and that we are called to be Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) in it. I believe one of best ways to witness to the work Jesus has done in my life is to To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), as He requires us to do. If we act with and for justice, then others may be encouraged to do the same. If we love mercy, and treat others mercifully as God treats us, then we might just help them to become better, just as the Bishop in Les Miserables bought Valjean's soul for God through treating him with mercy and grace. And if we can walk humbly with God, we may draw others to Him by our humility and quiet love.

On this day where fasting is prominent, I am led to think about those who have no choice but to go without food. While we shortsightedly complain about our (self-inflicted) lack of chocolate, wine or meat for a few weeks, "Nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year. We've made progress in other areas, but hunger is still the great scandal of our age. All around the world, even in the UK, people are struggling to feed their families." (Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign) Over 100 organisations have joined together to tackle hunger by campaigning for world leaders to act on the four issues that prevent so many from getting their fair share - Aid, Tax, Land & Transparency. If this is something that you feel strongly about, visit the website and get involved.

Let us help God to raise the poor from the dust.

How will you act justly this Lent?

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