Here We Are Again: Ash Wednesday
Every year for those of us who follow the church calendar Ash Wednesday comes. Sometimes it's a surprise. But the great thing about the church calendar is that it offers stability as we center our lives around the life of Christ. What sticks out to me in the gospel of Matthew, specifically about the temptation of Jesus the text traditionally read during Ash Wednesday, is that Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. This is been understood as a time not just of tempting but testing. As for the season of lent it is always seen as a time of actual preparation. Anytime we have a major holiday we're supposed to spend some time in fasting in praying to prepare ourselves for the holy day (holiday). Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our season of preparation we prepare ourselves for what could be seen as the test of Good Friday and across. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert led by the spirit fasting and praying signs and symbols of preparation for the test to come. The test does come when the Satan comes and begins to poke and proud and test Jesus. The test comes in how he will be as a king. Each of the tempting of the Satan challenge Jesus about what kind of king he will be and if he is truly is the chosen one. The testing and tempting come at the end of the 40 days of preparation. Jesus seemingly passes the test.
Truthfully I have always hated tests. In school they always made me anxious and no matter how much I prepared I never felt like I had prepared enough. However tests are not a time for teachers to maniacally sit back and laugh expecting us to fail. Tester there to assess what we have learned. Tests are also given to see if you're ready or prepared for what comes next. A math teacher isn't going to teach somebody multiplication and division if they don't have addition and subtraction down first. Jesus is preparing and being tested for what comes next: Jesus's ministry, holy week, his death and resurrection.
Again we find ourselves here at Ash Wednesday at the beginning of the season of lent at the beginning of the season of preparation. In what ways have we grown from last year? In what ways have we leaned more into trust in God? In what ways do we need to search ourselves or have the Holy Spirit search us to find where we still need to grow and still need a trust? As we go and Mark ourselves with a sign of the cross with ashes may we find ourselves being led the season, in prayer and fasting, to prepare for whatever God has in store for us next. May we take this time to prayerfully enter into the presence of God and be led by the Spirit to prepare for what the Lord has for us next. That we too, like Jesus, be prepared for answering the ways God might call us to serve the kingdom.