That greeting may look like an oxymoron to you. What is happy about the first day of sober, penitent, self-denying, cross-focused Lent?
In SYNC, I am marching to the beat of a different drummer. Ash Wednesday is not the first day of Lent on the SYNC calendar. It is the first day of Roots Season, the season to celebrate the identity, security, and purpose we have because we have roots in God’s promises to Abraham.
And what has Ash Wednesday to do with Abraham, except that they both start with A? Nothing at all on the traditional calendar. Everything on the SYNC calendar.
In the SYNC view, the point of Ash Wednesday is that the ash on the altar Abraham built on Mt. Moriah was only ram ash. There was no ash of Isaac in it. That is the ash message—“The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22.14).
In other words, God has a plan to bless the world, and Abraham’s descendants are the strategy he chose to implement the plan. When it looks like the plan will fail, Abraham (and we) just have to keep trusting and obeying. With impeccable timing, God will come through, making the plan work when all hope seems lost.
If that is what Ash Wednesday means, it is impossible to get all sober and penitent about it. It’s fantastic! Shout it from the housetops. “We have a God who comes through. Our God delivers!”
And we have roots in Abraham. We are his spiritual descendants because of Jesus, whose name means, “God delivers.” Happy Ash Wednesday!
BTW, the SYNC calendar does have a season of sobriety and self-denial, but it comes much later in the year and it is linked to us carrying our own crosses. More about that “Grit Season” another time.