Thoughts for the Day

Wednesday, 17th February 2021: Ash Wednesday

Joel 2 Repentance Lent

Reading : Verses from Joel, Chapter 2

Ash Wednesday

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near - .....

Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, and many customs have come from Judaism. It starts a period of serious reflection and self-examination. Early on public penitents had ashes placed on their heads and clothes, to reflect their penitence. They would appear barefooted at church and perform penance for their sins. Friends and relatives began to accompany them, perhaps in sympathy and in the knowledge that no person is free from sin, so gradually a cross made from ash would be placed on each person's forehead.

Today, many churches still observe the habit of 'ashing', but Lent brings other changes. The colour purple comes in, possibly in a priest's stole or in a pulpit fall. Many churches will remove an altar covering to leave a bare table, music might be less joyful, and flowers removed for the six weeks of Lent (except for Mothering Sunday). All these are outward signs that we are entering a period of reflection and penitence.

Personally, I have no truck with the idea of giving up, say, chocolates. It's more important that we take on something and look at our relationship with God, perhaps examine ourselves and our lifestyle, or make more time for worship or prayer, or start some serious bible study. If we do, we shall find Easter with its news of the Resurrection, its flowers, candles and music will have an amazing effect on us.


Heavenly Father,
You call us back to Yourself -
to a time of serious introspection
and study that leads to repentance.
May we take the opportunity
of these coming weeks
to look at ourselves and our lifestyle
and return to You
with fresh determination
to be the people
You would have us be.

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