(Joel 2:12-18; II Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6; 6-18)
In a few minutes a minister will rub ashes on our foreheads. While doing this, he (or she) will repeat one of two formulas: “Remember...that you are dust and to dust will return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” It is humbling to realize that we come from dust and chilling to see how little dust we return to. The so-called cremains of a human corpse that has been cremated fill only a mid-sized baggie!
Indeed, we are headed for destruction. Nothing will save us from death. But death does not necessarily mean that we will not be heard from again. We may rise from the dead to walk in a freedom unlike anything we will have ever known. The apostles testified with their lives that this is exactly what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion. Further, they said that it will happen to us if we commit ourselves to him.
We try to do so every day of our lives. But for forty days each year we redouble our efforts. Lent is an annual retreat where we walk closely with Jesus, especially in the way of his cross. We take pains to care for others, to pray, and to fast -- not for fame but for true righteousness. We make every effort to turn away from our sins and be faithful to Jesus’ gospel.