Ash Wednesday, February 18

But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:13-14)

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of our journey toward Easter – toward the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early centuries of the Christian church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned made public confession and prepared to be readmitted to the church. Like the tax collector in Luke and the believers in the early church, confessing our sin and acknowledging the limits of our mortality are ways we prepare our lives for the loving embrace of God.

Psalm 103:14 tells us that God knows how we were made and remembers that we are dust. We are made and fashioned in God’s image. Yet, we are not God. Therefore, we are not perfect nor are we without flaws or sin. We are dust that God holds in the palm of God’s hands and shapes according to divine will. We are dust into which God blows breath, spirit, ruah. The Lenten season invites us to find ways to stand far off, like the tax collector – far from the crowds, from the busy-ness of our lives, from our idols and our sin, so that we might humble ourselves before God, who remembers that we are dust.

Holy Spirit, come to us. As you ministered to Jesus in the wilderness, we pray that you would attend to the needs of our minds, bodies, and spirits during this season of examination and preparation. Be merciful to us – your daughters and sons, who are sinners. Amen.

Eleanor Colvin - Learner, storyteller, friend