From Ashes to Grace

PastorPastor's Blog

Ash Wednesday introduces Lent, a season inviting us into deep contemplation of our mortality and the rejuvenating grace of God through Jesus Christ. This journey is characterized by fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline. It invites us into introspection, recognizing our reliance on divine grace amidst our pursuit of perfection and acknowledgment of our inherent brokenness. This season can be described as one from Ashes to Grace as we move from penance to the glory of Easter.

In the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in Matthew 5:3, Jesus presents a profound insight that can help us during the Lenten season: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This statement challenges our modern perspective, often equating blessings with material wealth. Instead, Jesus highlights spiritual poverty as a blessing, a concept that seems counterintuitive in our achievement-oriented society.

The Beatitudes’ call to be “poor in spirit” is not about material poverty but about recognizing our total dependence on God. It is an invitation to humility, understanding our limitations, and trusting in God’s provision. This spiritual poverty is actually a richness in spirit—a paradox where acknowledging our lack makes us more open to God’s grace.

Jesus illustrates this through the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14,

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In this parable, the Pharisee, proud of his righteousness, contrasts sharply with the tax collector, who humbly acknowledges his sinfulness and begs for mercy. Jesus teaches that humility and acknowledgment of our need for God’s grace justify us before God, not self-righteousness or achievements. He highlighted this when he said, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” The Pharisee was proud, looking down on others, exalting himself, while the tax collector was humble, sorry, and confessing his sins.

The humble tax collector is a picture of Lent. In his realization of his sins, he was poor in spirit, which led him to have a humble, dependent heart on God, one that says, “God alone is my rock and my salvation!” His blessing was going home in peace, for his sins had been forgiven.

As we enter Lent, let us mirror the tax collector’s humility and recognize our constant need for God’s grace and forgiveness. This time is an opportunity to examine ourselves, acknowledging our flaws and the arrogance that often distances us from God. Let us be poor in spirit so the mercy and grace of God can bless us. Let us embrace this holy season with open hearts, ready to be drawn closer to God and to the profound truth of the Gospel as we move from ashes to grace.