Today we begin the forty day journey of Lent. It is a journey that will lead us – followers and stragglers of Jesus – to the cross. The cross was at one time a symbol of terror and domination. Its purpose was to strike fear and imperial suppression against anyone who dared to threaten Rome. One man did, and suffered beneath the cross. Through the centuries since the crucifixion of Jesus the cross has been elevated from a symbol of torture and defeat, to the marking of disciples.
The cross has been adorned, decorated, beautified, trivialized, but also has served to indentify and set apart believers.
During Lent I will be sharing different shapes the cross has taken, along with some of its symbolic meanings. Regardless of how we see and picture the cross, we have been invited to bear the cross and follow Jesus. It is the only way to Easter.
On Ash Wednesday young and old are invited to come forward and by marked with the cross in ashes. We share the words, “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) We are surrounded by silly symbols of our anxieties that oftentimes are manifested in over-consumption and violence. Yet we are all, in the end, destined to be no more than a can of ashes on this earth. Ash Wednesday and Lent call on us to ignore the anxious voices that cannot believe in anything but the self, and listen to the voice of the One, who out of dust, breathed in each the breath of life. There will come a day when our breath returns to the Creator.
Finally the ashes that mark us on Ash Wednesday are an invitation to follow. For me this season is an important reminder that whatever it is I face or will face in my life – and one can scarcely imagine what awaits us in our lifetime – its scope does not exceed the reach of God. I do not know how I will face all that confronts me, but then again that is not my primary concern. I am called to follow on this journey.
If you can, join with the church family tonight to pray, reflect and be marked to follow. First Baptist Church of Augusta will be observing this service at 6:15 PM in our sanctuary. There we begin the time of waiting and following to the cross, the grave, and blessed Easter morning.