Monday, February 20, 2012

Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 5:30-7:00pm

       Come out and celebrate this Tuesday: Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras (means "Fat Tuesday" in French).  This is the last day of celebration before the season of Lent begins.  Lent is a season of fasting - of denying ourselves - in order to focus more on our relationship with God.  So "Fat" Tuesday is the day to use up all the sugar and fat from the pantry before Lent.  It's a great celebration! 
       And this year it has another significance for us at Bethany.  This summer three of our youth are going to New Orleans - the city of Mardi Gras! - for a National Youth Gathering.  They will be at the meal helping out, and any donations will go towards their trip.

Ash Wednesday
Imposition of Ashes and Service of Holy Communion
Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7pm

       Our Ash Wednesday service will be held the very next evening.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  This service sets the tone for the whole season of Lent, leading up to Easter.  Lent is a penitential season - a time for us to focus on the mystery of the cross and to give thanks that Jesus so willingly chose to suffer and die that we might have life.

So what are the ashes about?
       A couple of things, actually.  The ashes remind us of our beginning.  In the beginning, the Lord God formed humans out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7).  After their disobedience and their banishment from the garden, the Lord told Adam and Eve to remember where they came from: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).  The ashes remind us of the dust from which we were formed - that God created us, and we are totally dependant on God for our lives and everything in them.  The ashes remind us of our very great need for God, and we are greatly humbled as we receive the ashes on our forehead and hear those ancient words: "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
       The sign of the cross is made on our foreheads out of the ashes made from last year's Palm Sunday palms.  (Pastors Bollinger and Weant burned last year's palms two weeks ago.)  This is a powerful reminder of two things: the fickleness of human nature, and the faithfulness of Christ.
       During Holy Week you can watch the progression of human fickleness.  On Sunday the crowds in Jerusalem waved palm branches and welcomed Jesus with open arms, and by the end of the week they were shouting, "Crucify him!"  We participate in these same actions liturgically each year, but we also flop back and forth in our own lives between praise of God and turning our backs on God.  It is a sobering reminder of how fickle we can be.
       BUT, as fickle as we are, Christ is not.  The sign of the cross on our foreheads reminds us of Christ's faithfulness.  Jesus was faithful to the will of the Father even to the very end - even unto death.  God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to God.  The cross is the reminder of that, and the cross was marked on each of our foreheads at our baptisms.  We are marked with the cross of Christ forever, and this ashy version of the cross reminds us that no matter how great our sin, God will always remain faithful to us.

       So we hope you will come out to these two important events in the life of the church this week.  They go together, really, and not only are they ways to share in community, they are also reminders of God's abiding and steadfast love for us.  See you there!

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