Joel 2:13b - 14. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
Return to the Lord your God. With Ash Wednesday, Lent begins. It is a time of reflection, a time to slow down, to look deeper, to give some things up, not for the sake of deprivation, but for the sake of making space, in your life, so that God might yet again have a bigger place in it. To put it in the language and practice of today, you might say Lent is the annual reset button in the church calendar. As in all of life, we can become torn, and pulled, in many different directions. As the year progresses, the stresses and demands of life can fill more and more of the the time we have. Lent affords us, indeed invites us, to reset. Lent invites us to remember, and on this day, Ash Wednesday, we are especially invited to remember that we “are but dust, and to dust we shall return.” That invitation can seem harsh, or even morbid, but thought about long enough we all know that life, the life we have, the time we have, the blessings of people and opportunities in our lives, are made much more important, much more meaningful, when we are in touch with the fact that all of us get a limited time to savor them on earth. Through that yearly exercise we reconnect with our belief as Christians that everything we have, all the blessings of our lives, come from God, and so our thanksgiving should be directed toward the One who gives us life. The mark of ashes, the ashes of the Palms from last year, living things used to welcome the Lord, now turned to ash, and used to trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, the sign made at our baptism, an outward and visible sign, of what we believe to be a inward and spiritual grace. Wear that sign. See that cross. Return to the Lord Your God.
—The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Bishop of Olympia