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Dear Baptized in Christ,

“The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him.” [Mark 1:12-­‐13]

As Lutheran Christians, we have now put away our “Alleluias” and bring out our ashes. Today marks the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday. While it is not commanded, it is a powerful tradition in the Church to participate in the imposition of ashes. As you approach the pastor, he marks your forehead or hand with ashes in the sign of the cross. As the pastor marks you with the cross of Christ, he will say, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” These are the words God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3 at the time of the fall. The ashes are a stark visual sign of our deep spiritual condition – that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of our sin is indeed eternal death.

During this season of Lent, we will journey with Christ to the wilderness. We will journey to the wilderness of repentance of sin, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This journey will take us to Holy Week where we will journey with Christ through the streets of Jerusalem, to the Upper Room, to Gethsemane, to the cross, and to the tomb. However, our journey does not stop there – we will journey with Christ through death to life eternal. While we indeed die with Christ in our baptism, so we also rise with Him. In Christ, you have the full, free forgiveness of sins. In Christ, He will call you forth from the grave. In Christ, you will live with Him forever!

As you journey these 40 days with Christ, I pray these forty days are indeed a blessing to you as pastor and people. As your pastor preaches the Word of Christ into your ear and feeds you the body and blood of Christ in your mouth, I rejoice that in this, the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies you in the one true faith.” I rejoice in the mutual love and care you have for one another as pastor and people. And I rejoice that we share a common faith in the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ that journeys us into the eternal Easter!

Pastor Baneck

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