Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   John 14:6

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.     1 Peter 3:18

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.     
John 10:10,11


Last night we enjoyed pancakes for supper with delicious homemade berry sauce and bacon.  Mmmmm . . . Pancake Tuesday is historically connected to the last day before Lent as a way to use up the rich fatty food in the house before turning to a more austere Lenten diet.  That function has almost completely disappeared, leaving only a quaint tradition behind.  Enjoying my last few potato chips with Ken, on the other hand, was much closer to the heart of the old Pancake Tuesday tradition.  Today the absence of my favourite treat (along with a couple other choices I have made) will mark the beginning of a journey I will take over the next six weeks with Christ-followers all around the world.  Over the weeks, these small personal lifestyle changes we choose to make will draw our attention back again and again to the God we love and his enormous sacrifice for us.

At the church this evening at 7pm, I will gather with others to add another more visible mark, an ashen smudge in the shape of a cross.  I will hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and be reminded that one day I will die.  Not a light and cheery message, but a necessary one.  It is the place to start.

I like to think of Lent as a journey to Easter, and every journey starts with knowing where we are and being willing to go someplace else.  So where are we?  We are created ones and we are marked for death . . . sin leads to both spiritual and physical death.  We see the painful signs of sin all around us . . . our exploited world, our oppressive systems, our broken relationships, our deteriorating bodies, our selfishness, loneliness and fear.  This is a reality we choose not to shun today, but look full in the face.  We start in the place of our deepest need.

With that answered, where do we want to go?  Ah, that one is easy.  To LIFE … full abundant life, whole and healthy life, resurrection life, eternal life.  But how do we get there?  The answer to the first question helps us answer the second one.  We already know we are the created ones, we are weak and broken; we cannot get there on our own.  We look to our God who is our only hope.  And our God says to travel from death to life we must journey through the cross.

As we begin our journey, Ash Wednesday is a sombre place but also a hopeful place to start.  No matter where today takes you . . . whether you find yourself at church,  home, work and play, every follower of Christ is set apart with an ashen smudge . . . the mark of death in the shape of life, the shape of the cross of Christ.  The ash reminds us that that we are fragile, weak and broken, and calls us to repentance.  The cross reminds us that we are also forgiven, loved and given the gift of life through Jesus Christ, the one who died for us.  It is this sacrificial gift we want to receive, ponder, respond to and revel in over these next few weeks.  It is a sacred journey and I am so thankful we can take it together.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I confess what you already know.  I am broken and needy and without you I can do no good thing.  Thank you that you love me, receive me and forgive all my sin.  Thank you that you give me life, you walk with me in all life brings today and you give me the promise of life eternal.  Guide me on each step of this journey as I walk with you.  For I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen

At www.foothillsalliance.com under Resources and Downloads you will find scripture and prayers used for the Ash Wednesday service (and other Lenten resources).  I encourage you to sit with the words of Scripture and hear God’s word to you, to pray the prayers of confession from your heart and receive God’s amazing gift of forgiveness and grace.  What a great way to begin the journey together.

Prayerfully listen to At the Cross and worship our God of love, grace and forgiveness who longs to give us life.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDHkuu59fqk

Contributed by Pastor Carla Olsen Draper