February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018


Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

This weekend’s reading: Luke 23:34

Someone joked that God’s sense of humor is showing because in 2018 Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, and Easter comes on April Fools’. This accidental confluence of dates does at least provoke some associations. The Ash Wednesday Gospel ends by questioning, “Where is your heart?” (like the 1950s-love song). And April Fools’ is based an old tradition of playfulness during the Easter season. The king’s Fool or jester might be set on the throne in an allusion to the fact that Jesus turns the world upside-down as a king who “topples the mighty from their thrones.” Jesus was considered foolish by many, as were his followers.
Ash Wednesday invites us to the Lenten disciplines we find in the Scriptures, calling us to repent, to turn our lives around and seek God, as individuals but also as a community of believers. You’ve heard it said that the only thing wrong with the church is that it’s made up of humans, and humans sin. We have weaknesses and distractions that make soul-searching and a determination to return to God’s ways necessary for all of us.  Joel 2 begins: “Blow the trumpet.”  Call together the assembly so that all may show readiness to return to God. Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession, seeking God’s forgiveness through prayer. In Corinthians Paul says that God’s grace is available even as we fall short of God’s glory, but when we accept God’s grace we show that grace is “not in vain” by reconciling with God.
We show that our hearts are reconciled to God’s heart by the way we treat others. One example is almsgiving (Matt 6:1-6, 16-21). This means following Jesus in giving what we have so all can eat, not calling attention to ourselves but to God. The word heart is in three of today’s readings, and Lent gives us a “cardiac check-up.” God wants to know what we treasure. Is it earthly possessions, pleasure, success, acclaim? Or is it the building of God’s kingdom on earth? Because where our treasure is, there our hearts are also (v. 21).


  • Many of us did not grow up observing Lent. What do you think is valuable about the practice now?
  • Years ago, February was “Mission Study Month” at church, and we gathered in classes every Wednesday night for study. How can we relate missions to Lent?


  • On Valentine’s Day, we can talk with children about God’s love for the world. Ask the family to memorize the Great Commandment, Matt 22:37-39, and say it together before prayers during Lent.
  • Some churches encourage the practice of “giving something away” during Lent. It works like this: Keep a box in the kitchen, and tonight, with your family, put a can of food in it. Assign each family member one or more of the 40 days of Lent to be responsible for adding something to the box. Encourage children to use their own money and choose what they want to add. After blessing the food on Easter weekend, donate the box to a food pantry.

Merciful God, we are your servants; we bear on our brow the mark of the One who died. Give us hearts full of love for those you call us to serve in your holy name. Help us to accept the grace of your forgiveness and be reconciled to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.