What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash-WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday.  But what is Ash Wednesday all about?  Why do we do it?  Why is this something that we should focus on?  What is the point?

Ash Wednesday is the first day in the Forty Day season known as Lent.  These forty days (excluding Sunday – I’ll explain why in a bit) are a time for us to remember all that Jesus did for us.  It’s a time for us to remember the depth of all that Jesus went through for us.  His passion.  His suffering.  His death and upon the cross.

And to prepare ourselves for what is to come on Easter.

In the life of the early church, Lent was a season of preparation for those that would be joining the church on Easter.  It was a time of fasting and prayer as these new converts to the faith were making sure that they were truly ready to make their vows to publically become a Christian.  They were preparing to enter a world where being a Christian was something that could cost you your life.  The church wanted to make sure that these new believers knew just what that meant.

So they fasted and prayed for forty days, to prepare.  To make sure. To be ready.  Many churches (our’s at St. Matthew’s is one of them) continues that tradition of individuals joining after Easter, many of those within our Confirmation Class will join our church on the Sunday after Easter.

But why ashes?  Why Ash Wednesday?  Throughout the Bible, ashes are seen as a sign of repentance.  Individuals would put on “sackcloth and ashes” to show public signs of repentance.  You may remember Job sitting in the ashes, after all that happened to him.  To mark yourself in some way with ashes to remember the truth of our lives, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Ashes remind us our humanity and our frailty.

So as we start Lent, we begin with ashes.

I said earlier that Sundays are not included within Lent.  Why is that?  Every Sunday is a “little Easter.” Every Sunday we gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  So, how can we fast while we celebrate?  Sundays as always splashes of grace within our lives.

During Lent, as a sign of repentance, many of us will give up or fast from something.  It may be a meal, a type of food, an activity.  Something.  What I tell my children is just to make sure that it’s something you like, so you’ll miss it.  And when you miss it, you turn to pray.

That’s the point of fasting, in all of its forms, to drive us to pray and to help us better hear and understand God’s voice.  Fasting helps us listen better, it clears away the clutter. For me, it always helps me pray.

Some, instead of giving up something, will “pick up” something.  Just as Simon of Cyrene picked up the cross to help Jesus, they will pick up, or start something that will help them grow closer to Jesus.  Maybe it’s a spiritual discipline.  Maybe it’s an act of kindness.  It could be any thing that draws us closer to Jesus.

And that’s really the point of Ash Wednesday and of Lent.  It reminds us of our brokenness it reminds us of our frailty and reminds of our need for Jesus.  Luke 14: 9-14 explains this heart quite well:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

When we humble ourselves, when we repent, when we realize our great need for Jesus, you know what?  We find life.

Today on Ash Wednesday and in this season of Lent, may we find life.  May we find His grace.

If you are in the Madison County area, we’d love to have you join us tonight at St. Matthew’s for our Ash Wednesday service tonight.  We’ll have a meal at 5 p.m. and service at 6 p.m.  If you are unable to make our service and would like to receive ashes, come by the church anytime today and they will be available.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Commitment, Healing, and Dreaming

581086_382241601814983_555317416_nSpeechless.  That’s something hard for me to be.  I am very rarely at a loss for words.  But that’s where I am right now.  Speechless.

This past Sunday we had our time of renewal and commitment here at St. Matthew’s.  We reaffirmed our Baptism and made our ministry and financial commitments.  And y’all, it may have been the most amazing response I’ve ever seen.  I wanted to give you a brief update, and then let you know this.  We need you!

Sunday, we had 137 financial commitment cards returned, an increase of 37% from our initial commitment Sunday last year.  Our initial pledged support was up nearly 50% from last year and of those cards that were returned 70% of those that that renewed their commitment increased that commitment.  And over the past year we have 93 new individuals or families that have given to our church.

We also had 64 cards returned making ministry commitments.  New commitments were made to serve in youth, children, evangelism, so many different ministries here at our church.  It was truly amazing to see and experience what God did in worship this past Sunday!

One of the questions that someone asked me is what is my vision for our church?  I said Sunday that’s kind of hard right now; we are still hanging up pictures at our home; we are still figuring it all out.  But I will tell you this, my vision is not a vision that is programmatic.  My vision is not about necessarily what we do.  It’s about who we are.  My vision is a word I couldn’t get out my head this past week.


We are called as a church to be about healing. There are children in our community that are terrified because their mom and dad won’t stop fighting. And they need healing.

There are youth that are giving into peer pressure, doing anything that they can do to feel loved.  And they need healing.

There are older adults that are looking for a reason to just go on living. And they need healing.

There are families that are one light breeze away from falling apart. And they need healing.

There are people that are spending money they don’t have to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like, all for a sense of worth. And they need healing.

The healing we all need, the cure of our souls is Jesus. He is the source of healing in our church, our community, our world.  We all need His healing grace. And we are called to agents of that healing to a world and community in need of healing.  The world and our community are not in need of programs or religion but in need of the healing of Jesus Christ.  That’s our call.

And we need you.  We really do.  To do this, to be this agent of healing, we need everyone connected, plugged in, giving, serving, being faithful. What a great response we had this past week.  But we need everyone.

Imagine what we can do.  Imagine what can happen.  Imagine the difference it can make.  Imagine.

And we can do it.  We can.  Together.  As one.  Unified.  Living out His healing grace.

There is still time to turn in your commitment cards if you haven’t. There will be more available at the church.

We need you.  The kingdom needs you.  And we can do it. Together, as one we can do it.

May God be glorified in all that happens in this place!

Back to Normal

11039283_918053468233791_7323792872120992766_nThis Sunday at St. Matthew’s, we going are “back to normal.” We’ve had an amazing first few weeks here!  We had just a great crowd and spirit here on our first Sunday. And then the Choir and Orchestra were just terrific for our Patriotic Musical. And last week, with all of us being in Hart Hall, our original worship space, what a great time to remember who we are and where we’ve come from!

And this Sunday we are going back our regular schedule of three services.

Back to normal.

But, here’s the thing. I never want us to go back to normal. Not here at St. Matthew’s. Not in our lives. Not in our families. Not in our community. Not anywhere.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” So in other words, as believers, there is no “normal” anymore. We are a new creation. We alive with love and joy and peace and grace and mercy.

There is no normal anymore.

That’s what I want for us here at St. Matthew’s. Let’s never have a normal Sunday, ever again. Every time we gather for worship, the supernatural can happen. Lives can change, families can be healed, the dead can be brought back to life.

Let’s never be normal again. Let’s live every day with the expectation of the miraculous. Let’s live every day with that hope, that expectation, that promise.

Let’s never be normal again!

See you Sunday. And invite a friend to join us at 8:30 or 11 for our Traditional Worship Experiences in the Sanctuary or at 11 for our INTERSECTION Contemporary Experience in Hart Hall!