Today we observe the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. On this day we remind ourselves of our own mortality by receiving ashes on our forehards in the ancient symbol of mourning, along with the words, "Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return." At the same worship service, the Psalm is 103, with its memorable lines:
8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger for ever. 10He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.
I love that right in the midst of our "worthily lamenting our sins" we are reminded that are sins are already taken away! That does not mean we aren't responsible for what we've done, or that there is no value in self-examination and repentance. It simply means that we know that our repentance is always accepted by God. We never have to worry that we will not be good enough for God.
And so, my friends, I invite you to a holy Lent:
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.