Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday features our human sinfulness and mortality. Christians in various traditions will wear an ashen sign of the cross on their foreheads to visualize the symbolism. However, this is not the last word, as Ash Wednesday and Lent point forward to Jesus’ victory over sin and death in his crucifixion and resurrection.
As I reflected this morning on Ash Wednesday, I recalled a song from a movie. No, it isn’t a Christian movie. It isn’t really a somber movie either. The film is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The song is “The Roses of Success.” The song provides comfort and hope in declaring that the roses of success grow from the ashes of disaster. That song used to play in my head during a season of great personal turbulence and trial. We were living in Japan at the time. My very young son Christopher loved to watch that movie over and over again. I loved that goofy, catchy tune. It reminded me of how God does much of his greatest work in the darkest, most devastating times. In addition to Scripture, that little tune helped me not give up and throw in the towel during a disastrous season. Roses grew and blossomed in those ashes. Now an even darker season of life creeps over my family and me, as that same son is on life support. That song is again playing in my head.
Historically, Ash Wednesday and Lent served as a season of preparation of young believers for baptism and public declaration of faith on Easter Sunday. My son Christopher was baptized on Easter Sunday many years ago. But the significance of Lent and baptism on Easter Sunday does not end there for my son, or for any of us. What happens there spills over into the rest of life. Romans 6 puts it well:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4; NRSV).
May God raise up my son again so that he can walk in the newness of Christ’s life. May the roses of Christ’s victory bloom in the ashes of this present disaster. May the same hold true for all of us. In the face of our own pain and suffering, sin and mortality, and ashes of disaster, may we participate in Christ’s cruciform glory, resurrection power, and victorious life and love.