My first Ash Wednesday service started off Lent with a proper spirit: a reminder of just how far we are from perfection.
All of us in attendance ensured that the service would not be perfect.
First, our priest had us stand and, stumbling through the liturgy, asked the choir, “Are we going to sing this one?” The congregation and the priest himself chuckled when he realized the choir had just finished a beautiful rendition of the song. We promptly knelt.
We knelt to recite the litany of penitence, which confesses our sins to God and begs for His mercy. The child’s voice behind me could not find the proper rhythm to read with the congregation. The people in front of me spoke the first syllables of the words reserved for the officiant before quickly silencing themselves. I smiled at these reminders of our imperfection as we spoke to God of our sins.
Naturally, it was then my turn. I falteringly tried to keep the rhythm of “Humbly I Adore Thee,” and gave up for a line or two, completely lost. The next corporate prayer was familiar enough that I thought I knew what I was doing, but had enough strange language that I totally flubbed the words. Ha!
What a wonderful reminder of our imperfection! These instances captured for me the unique words of the Ash Wednesday service: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Everyone who attended that service, myself especially included, was sentenced to death for our sins against God. During Lent, we remember how much we need God to save us from our just punishment.
Thankfully, Lent is also a time to prepare for the reconciliation He provided at Easter. Oh, praise the Lord for Easter!