Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday dust

A reflection on fasting 



OK, God, 

first thoughts: 

sackcloth and ashes. 

Giving up something … smoking … chocolate … booze? 

Trying to be extra kind instead of giving something up? 

Images of you as angry and wanting us to feel miserable – 

of you as not being very nice! 


So, the day’s lectionary readings: 

well, Matthew seems to be saying 

whatever we do on the fasting front 

we need to do it secretly and quietly, 

and that prayer, 

spending time talking with you 

and listening to you, 

is part of the picture. 


The psalmist is definitely into a heavy 

sin and guilt trip 

but he does ask you for wisdom 

and knows that you look for integrity and truth in our lives. 


Paul tells us 

that today is the day to act, 

rather than tomorrow. 


And then there’s Isaiah, 

who has some very clear ideas as to what fasting is about: 

to take burdens off people, 

to work for justice, 

to share food with those who are hungry, 

to share hospitality, 

to give clothes to those who need them. 


So how am I going to keep Lent? 

By praying? 

By sharing food and hospitality? 

By being active in organisations and movements that seek justice? 

By keeping what I’m doing, or not doing, a secret? 

By thinking and reading and experiencing what you’re really about? 


It’s Ash Wednesday. 

Time for fasting. 

Time to turn away from the bad stuff. 

Time to turn to God. 



From dust we come, 

to dust we will return: 

we belong to God. 

Bless us now at the beginning of Lent; 

hear our regrets, our prayers, our dreams. 

Keep us close to you, God. 

Keep us close to you. 



Ruth Burgess, from In Love with the Life of Life: Daily Readings for Lent and Holy Week, Neil Paynter (Ed) 

Book available here.

Image credit: Zac Lucero, Unsplash

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