Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday

I'm not big on ceremony in my Christian life. I became a Christian as a teenager in a Pentecostal church where spontaneity and informality was prized. As I have got older I've begun to appreciate certain aspects of the more formal approach to Christian life and worship.

This evening I went along to New College in Oxford for their choral evensong. I wasn't expecting it to last so long. This was a problem since I had been visiting my wife Liz at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital where she was recovering  after hip surgery and I told her I would be back to see her soon. As soon as I saw the programme I tried to work out the best time time leave without causing too much disruption. This proved to be the time immediately after the application of ash to my forehead!

I was conveniently seated nearest to the 'official' who applied the ash to my forehead and headed for the door straight after. His words were sobering, 'Receive the mark of the ashes, for from dust you have come and to dust you shall return'.  At that I walked quickly back to my car through the busy Oxford streets. It was only when I looked in my car mirror that I realised how obtrusive the mark was!

Although I'm a non-conformist I do appreciate the opportunity that special times and seasons bring to me to reflect more meaningfully on what it means to be a Christian. The period of Lent can be used helpfully to reassess my life with Christ, and perhaps to slow down and do a spiritual stock-take. This evening's ahses were a reminder to me that my life is indeed just a breath, and I can place so much emphasis upon my physical life and well-being that my soul can be starved. I can live so much for time, that the realities of eternity are squeezed out.

Teach me to number my days that I may apply my heart to wisdom Psalm 90.12.
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