When Cortes landed on the shores of Mexico, it is said that he burned his ships. He did it as a sign to his men that retreat wasn’t an option. No going back. No “Plan B”. It was succeed or die. Forward movement only.
And while I’m not too comfortable using a character as morally questionable as Hernado Cortes as a good example, there is something about the ashes of those ships that calls to mind these Ash Wednesday ashes that confront us at the beginning of Lent.
The same is true of us this Lent. Lent begins with ashes. They are the ashes promised by God in Genesis 3: “You are dust … and to dust you shall return”. “Ashes to ashes,” we say at many funerals. “Dust to dust”. We begin Lent with a reminder of death. Your death … and mine. We are dust. That’s harsh!
… forward movement only. Which would be scary if we didn’t have a leader who knew where God was going. God has charted a course – a plan for our salvation. God’s even sent a Navigator, Jesus, to guide us through Lent.
It’s good that somebody has a plan for this trip through Lent. Because the ashes on our foreheads mean that we don’t even have a boat!