February 1, 2024

Beloved of God,
A blogger named Ethan Richardson has noted that Ash Wednesday, marking the start of the season of
Lent, is a holy day “that’s never going to be coopted by our culture at large”. Christmas may be hijacked by
pretty lights and nicely wrapped presents; and Easter, by chocolate bunnies and Peeps; but Ash Wednesday –
with its messages of saying No to oneself and dying to oneself – is safe: a day “the church can keep all to

This year Ash Wednesday falls smack dab in the middle of the month: on February 14th. (And, yes,
that day is also Valentine’s Day.) The month begins (at least on its first Sunday, February 4th) with the
church’s annual meeting to celebrate God’s grace over the past year and ends with the run-up to a happy
French-themed party (Rising TIDE’s fundraising dinner on March 1st) to celebrate God’s grace through the
church’s main mission work; but there at the center of the month is Ash Wednesday, reminding us that, when
Jesus explained what it meant to be His disciple, He spoke of denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and
following the example of the One who gave His life at Calvary (Mark 8:34).

Wait! Doesn’t Jesus love us and want us to be happy? Of course, He does; but He understands the
fruitfulness of delayed gratification. This is shown in how, right after He specifies what discipleship involves,
He promises (Mark 8:35) that those who lose their life for His sake will find life. His disciples forego
blessings in the present to gain greater and longer-lasting blessings in the future.

This is a crucial truth to take to heart and to bear in mind, that we might live by its message. So on Ash
Wednesday we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross, that we might remember our mortality and live
for eternity and that we might remember to fulfill our repentance and keep turning to the God who saves us.
By such remembering, we can give God full-hearted thanks for all His loving kindness in 2023 and for the
gracious privilege to work with Him to bless others (for example, by uplifting the lives of urban children and

One last note: You may participate in the Ash Wednesday service either in-person or on-line. It will
take place live, at noon in the Sanctuary on February 14th. It will be simultaneously livestreamed, and then
immediately put on-line to be viewed later as well. By your participation, you will be blessed; and for your
participation, we will be most grateful!

Warmly in Christ,
Rob & Adele

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