One of most stark photos of the massacre at the high school in Florida was of the mother who had a streak of ashes on her forehead. She had received the ashes as she heard the words, “Remember, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The Old Testament lesson for Ash Wednesday, Joel 2:12-19, is a call to repentance with fasting, weeping, mourning, tearing open our hearts in honest turning from out ways and turning to God. This is not just for some other people who I think need it. No one is exempt. All the people must participate. The community leaders must put aside their important wrangling and solving of the world’s problems. Nor can parents leave their kids home, mothers nursing infants, no matter how inconvenient are bid to answer the call. Even newly weds are to cut short their honeymoon. The clergy, with weeping must cry out to the Lord that the people be spared.
If we can’t call all the people to repentance, then we followers of Christ should surely answer the call ourselves, to turn from violence and the acceptance of violence and casting of stones (aspersions) at those with whom we disagree and accepting simple answers to complex questions. If we were not at an Ash Wednesday, what were we doing that was so important, that we could not receive the mark of our sinful humanity, in the hope of a gracious and merciful God in Jesus Christ?