I have been pondering Lent, and specifically Ash Wednesday over the last few hours, and wondering how to communicate the significance of it to people who live with a daily struggle to make ends meet. Yesterday I spent time at the drop in at North Shore in Blackpool, last week I told the story of Mike and it touched a chord with many, the stories I heard yesterday were no less challenging than Mike's story, I have heard some of them before and some of them were new, some folk just wanted to talk, others asked for prayer, all are aware of their vulnerability and need. For some it has become the "thing" that defines them, so as I prepare for an Ash Wednesday Service I do not want to offer the traditional words;"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return", for I am ministering to people who are well aware of this, and in this I believe that I can learn from them...
It is not that repentance is unnecessary for we all need to live a repentant life, choosing to turn to God and not to trust in either ourselves or anything else to guide us along lifes path which is so often strewn with obstacles and choices, this is as true for the folk who sit in our pews on Sunday as it is for those who join us at the drop in on Monday and Wednesdays ( and increasingly there is a crossover).
On Ash Wednesday we will share a service of ashing, in my ponderings and prayer I find the Gospel reading coming to my rescue;
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6: 6 The Message)
So my prayer will be similar to our usual form but slightly adapted:
you create us from the dust of the earth,
Let these ashes be for us
a sign of the humanness and frailty we know so well,
May we remember to turn to you in our need
and receive the assurance from you of eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
In the name of Christ
I invite you to receive on your forehead the sign of the cross
May these ashes be for you a sign of God's love and grace
Turn away from sin, turn to God and be faithful to Christ