The Oasis - February 27, 2019

Author: Rev. Estelle Margarones
February 27, 2019

Rev. Estelle Margarones
Ash Wednesday is a week from today. It marks the start of the Lenten Season, the time leading up to Easter. Lent is a reflective time where Christians consider the life and ministry of Jesus. We may choose to give something up for Lent as a way to honor Jesus who gave up his own life. 

When Jesus began to teach, his message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. The words repent and repentance are loaded with implications for Christians today, but what they mean at their essence are ‘turn around’ or ‘change your ways’.  The Miriam Webster Dictionary says that repentance is to ‘feel contrition’ or ‘to change one’s mind’. 

I like to think of myself as a very faithful person and I know I can always do better. The bar Jesus set is a high one. If you have ever found yourself falling short in the ‘no judgment’ category or the ‘love your neighbor’ category or the ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’ category, you know what I mean! Repentance is for all who aspire to be better people and who wish to follow Jesus more closely.

In the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament), wearing ashes on one’s forehead was a sign of repentance. Today, wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday is an outward sign of our Christian faith.

The United Church of Christ is a denomination that lifts up tradition and, at the same time, recognizes that Spirit speaks to various generations differently. Our Book of Worship says, “Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” but the language, customs and historical situation of the people of God are continually changing.”

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God said “See I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). Jesus said he came “not to abolish the law and prophets, but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17). In Jesus, God did new things.

This year, First Parish Church will do a new thing on Ash Wednesday, March 6. As in years past, we'll hold a traditional evening worship service with the imposition of ashes at 7:00 PM. For the first time, we'll be offering Ashes to Go in front of the church between 7:30-8:30 AM. People can drive up through the semi-circle in front of the church and receive ashes without even getting out of their cars! 

In this way, people will be able to show a visible sign of their Christian faith all throughout the day. By offering Ashes to Go, we are removing a barrier for anyone who may not feel comfortable crossing the threshold of a church. We're also showing people that we understand that life today is busy. Ashes to Go offers a point of connection for those that may not have a church as well as those whose schedules don't allow them to attend an hour-long worship service. It’s also great for those who don't drive at night. 

Over the last ten years, many churches of various denominations have been offering “Ashes to Go” near public transportation, on street corners, and in front of their churches during the morning commute or at lunchtime. I'm grateful to the Deacons for embracing this opportunity and making it possible for First Parish to offer ashes in this manner. Will you let someone know about it?

We will also offer ashes at York Hospital between 12 noon and 1 PM and again during our 7:00 PM worship service. If you're coming to Ash Wednesday worship; would you invite, pick up and bring a friend along with you?

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