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Ash Wednesday 2023

Wednesday, February 22

Today’s Lenten Calendar* Invite:

Attend Ash Wednesday service. Read Psalm 51. Set your eyes upon Jesus.

On the shores of St. Andrew, I learned the words of Psalm 51 to the tune of a song we would sing around the evening campfire when I was a camp counselor in lake-filled Minnesota.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within. Cast me not away from your presence, dear Lord, and take not your Holy Spirit from me, but restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.

Sometimes I still sing that song in the shower. As the warm water washes over me, I pray God creates in me a clean heart. Just like needing to repeatedly wash our hands and brush our teeth, I think it is important to “clean our hearts,” so to speak. We might ask ourselves some questions: Is there an “I’m sorry” we need to say? Are there some not so good thoughts that have streamed through our mind, such as repeated complaining about a coworker, or ruminating over something a friend said that upset us, or our own self-critic nipping at our weight and the wrinkle on our brow? Do we need to wash such thoughts away? Do we need to remember the presence of the Lord, the Spirit that speaks within us? Have we become bored or disconnected from worship or exploring God’s word or serving God’s people? How might we need our joy to be restored and our spirit to be made right?

Perhaps you might want to journal a response to Psalm 51. How might God create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you this Lent?

The first day of Lent begins with the Imposition of Ashes. As a pastor dusts an ashen cross on the forehead, words that are traditionally said are, “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return.” To me this is a reminder of humility, of mortality. I do not find these words morbid. Rather I find them a helpful reminder that I am not God and that I live in liminality; somehow that is freeing. At the same time, though, I recognize that I live in the expansive, mysterious, eternal story of God. The ashes remind me to set my eyes upon Jesus as I begin this forty day journey.

Blessings to all who read these words on your Lenten journey!

*Find the Lenten calendar here; or for the Lenten calendar more specific to Ascension Lutheran Church, go here.

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