During this season of Lent, as we wait again for Easter, it’s really difficult to not be dragged down by the ugliness and evil present in our world today.  I’m writing this a day after Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for showing and sharing love, right?  Maybe at one level, but it also is the day after the senseless murder of people who thought they were simply finishing their school day in Parkland, Florida.  Unfortunately, the exact opposite of showing and sharing love happened.  As I was going about the business of preparing for our Ash Wednesday worship, I heard the tragic news of another school shooting.  I was literally typing words that would be used as Rob and I would mark the church family’s foreheads, “Out of ashes, comes our salvation in Christ Jesus.”

As the lines came forward to receive the ashes in a form of a cross, and as each person heard those words that remind us of Christ’s purpose for dying and His promise of new life, the reality struck at a significant level.  What typically is a serious moment for each person as they receive the ashes, was last night for many a moment of grief and tears.  Less than four hours earlier, the lives of many were snuffed out in a way that placed evil at center stage – or so Satan would hope.

But God (what a wonderful phrase) reminded us all last night that the ugliness and evil present in our world today is not the last word.  Every person present last night heard of the reality of sin, and yet in the same sentence, heard the promise of God, “Out of ashes, comes our salvation in Christ Jesus.”

And if that didn’t settle in at the moment, we went quickly from being marked with ashes to meeting Christ Jesus Himself at the table of grace to which every human is invited.  We heard the promise of His presence and we tasted and remembered His broken body and shed blood, even as we felt the hand of a brother or sister on our shoulder.

The reality of evil in our world, even in our own personal space?  Certainly, and we cannot avoid it.  But, as we approach the Resurrection during this season of Lent, we focus on a larger reality.  There is a plan that shows us the grace of God, and is for all who would only believe.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)