As a child, I used to play a lot of wiffle ball in the backyard with neighborhood friends. If you don’t know it, wiffle ball is essentially baseball with special plastic balls and bats that allows you to play baseball in a small area because the ball doesn’t go very far and it doesn’t hurt you if you’re hit with it. It also allows you to play with fewer people because the space you have to cover as a fielder is smaller, and because you can simply hit a runner with the ball itself to get them out, rather than throwing to a fielder to tag them.

The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to tell if the ball actually grazed the runner or not to get them out, and that can lead to a lot of arguments. So when it was a particularly close call and an argument of “Did not!/Did so!” broke out about whether the fielder actually hit the runner with the ball, someone would finally shout, “Do-over!” meaning that you stop the conflict and basically rewind the game by one play, and the same batter would get another chance, allowing the game to move forward.

This coming Wednesday, March 6, is the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive the mark of the cross on their foreheads in ash; we will do that in a Service of Imposition of Ashes at 7 p.m. on March 6.

Now, all of that seems and sounds about as churchy as you can get. But if you boil it down, it’s basically the church’s version of declaring a “do-over” in our lives. Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance, of turning away from our mistakes and wrongdoing or just the “wrong direction” for our lives, and turning towards what is good and faithful and life-giving. And following the journey of Lent, then, is a way of claiming another chance for our lives to move forward again in a better direction. I’ll say more about that next week.

And finally, ashes are a recognition that this life of ours is a precious and finite gift; it matters what we do with it, and there’s no time like the present to change direction, in whatever small or big ways God is calling us to go.

Grace and Peace,