This year Ash Wednesday, a movable holy day which marks the beginning of Lent, falls on March 1st (2017) , which is the 560th anniversary of the organization of the Moravian Church. Both observances embody themes of repentance and personal recommitment to Jesus Christ.
Ashes on our forehead remind us to turn away from behavior and patterns of thought which separate us from God or others. There is an element of urgency to our repentance for none of us know our length of life. As a token of mortality, ashes can also prompt us to consider our life as a whole. What will be our legacy? Will our presence on earth have made the world a better place for others or have amounted to little more than an extended exercise in self-gratification?
It seems to me that the founding of the Moravian Church in 1457 can also be interpreted as a collective act of repentance and recommitment by a group of believers who earnestly believed that Christ’s example and God’s grace made it possible for them to break free from the tangle of sinful behavior, injustice and oppression which characterized the society in which they lived. According to Gregory, an early Moravian leader:
“What made a Christian was not doctrine or what he or she believed, but that a person lived his or her life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. He described these first Moravians as “people who have decided once and for all to be guided only by the gospel and example of our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy apostles in gentleness, humility, patience, and love for our enemies.“ (Source)
The apostle Paul notes that offering our lives up to God “as a living sacrifice” is “true and proper worship.” Faith is more a matter of knowing God and following Jesus than it is knowing about God and Jesus.
The calendrical coincidence of Ash Wednesday and the anniversary of the Moravian Church is a timely reminder that there will always be a pressing need for repentance and recommitment to our Lord, Jesus Christ. The world, our nation, our communities and our congregation desperately need those who decide “to be guided only by the gospel and example of our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy apostles in gentleness, humility, patience, and love for our enemies.”
March 1st is an invitation to recommit ourselves to being “Jesus people” as we reach out in the name of Christ to all persons but especially to those the Moravian Church has always felt called to seek – the world-weary, impoverished masses overlooked or rejected by others whether overseas or here in America. The Moravian Church’s history of mission is reflected in its current demographics with 39,150 of us in North America, 204,980 in the Caribbean and Latin America and 907,830 in Africa.
- Pastor Derek French