Looking to Ash Wednesday

From dust you were made, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Next week is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a period of forty weekdays plus six Sundays when Christians reflect more deeply than ever on Jesus’ life and ministry, and on their own call to discipleship. We will hold a service in the garden on Ash Wednesday at 7.30pm. This service is usually small, quiet and somewhat austere. It’s an opportunity to contemplate the ways we are entangled in sin, personally, corporately, and as a whole society; and then to turn back to God, set down our burdens, reflect on our mortality and frailty, and commit once again to walking with Jesus all the way to the cross.

The liturgy will include time for silent reflection and movement around the labyrinth in the carpark, as well as an opportunity to be marked with the cross in ashes. This mark is a sign of repentance, and is also a physical reminder that we are made from dust, and shall one day return to dust, even as our breath, or spirit, returns to the God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Ash Wednesday is also the day when we kick off our Lent readings. Often we reflect directly on the life and ministry of Jesus. This year, however, our reflections are on knowing God or learning faith through the land. For centuries, the European church has ignored the goodness of the earth as set out in Genesis 1, and has translated God’s charge to care for and serve the earth (Genesis 2) through the lens of capitalist domination and exploitation. To turn to the earth, to pay attention, to listen, and to learn from what the spirit is communicating through the land is an important rejection of that sin and a turning to God: in other words, it’s an act of repentance. Given we are a bunch of whitefellas living and worshipping on stolen land, this focus is more than appropriate for Lent.

And I am SO EXCITED about this year’s readings! Over the nearly seven years I have been here, this year’s topic has generated by far the biggest response. Not counting me, our little congregation has come up with 37 reflections from 30 different people of diverse ages, stages and geographies; and we have photographs and even spoken word pieces in the mix. There are stories and epiphanies and parables, and beautiful poems and prayers. I will spend the rest of the week collating and formatting: and I can’t wait to share with you all the goodness and grace I have already known through reading and reflecting on your submissions. Already, the landscape is newly charged for me, thanks to your faith-filled eyes. Well done, everyone!

These reflections will be published day-by-day over Lent to our website: so from next Wednesday, stay posted!


Emailed to Sanctuary 15 February 2023 © Sanctuary, 2023. Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Acknowledgement of country here

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