"Because I do not hope to turn..."
I received an e-mail from a friend, a fellow pastor. I won't quote it in full, because I haven't asked his permission to do so. But he calls the ashes of Ash Wednesday a "black badge of courage," a sign of one's conviction, faith, and belief. A sign the wearer believes in God, through Jesus Christ.
He presents this in the context of Christian belief being a "touchy thing;" perhaps, he says, it is even dangerous, even in America. I know of people who would immediately argue with the sentiment, affirming my friend's statement even as they mean to deny it. Dangerous? Well, perhaps; depending on how you, as a Christian, choose to affirm and display your faith.
Do you have the courage, for example, to be humble? Do you have the courage to be last of all and servant of all? At one point in church history, Lent concluded with a service in which the King of England would gather beggars into the sanctuary, and kneel down, and wash their feet, as Jesus did in the Gospel of John. Do any of us have the courage to do that, now? To end our Lenten fast that way? To begin our Lenten journey in that spirit?