Cornerstone added an Ash Wednesday service to our calendar this year lead by the priest who provides Cornerstone with a great building at a low rent! We wanted to give our students a greater understanding of the Christian calendar and to introduce them to the season of Lent that prepares them for the coming holy day of Easter. This solemn, outward expression of placing a cross on one’s forehead made from the ashes of last years Palm Sunday branches has always helped me focus on my own need for repentance, self-control, grace, fasting, and prayer.
As the service neared the point where I would join the priest and two fellow staff members in placing ash crosses on the foreheads of our students, the weight of this act began to sink in. When we founded Cornerstone twenty years ago, our prayer was that we would not only prepare students for life here on earth through a rigorous and challenging curriculum, but that we would also prepare them for an eternity by living out the Gospel for them and making God's word come alive in our classrooms and hallways.
After personally marking dozens of elementary students, a smaller stream of high schoolers slowly approached the front. Knowing the life stories of these students, having witnessed the work God has done in their lives, and knowing that many, if not most, of their classmates would not come forward made this a powerful and humbling experience. As I mouthed, "repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "remember that you are from dust and to dust you shall return," I was visibly shaken by the act.
I still have emblazoned in my mind the image of marking one of our tallest students -- a kind, talented, and incredibly respectful young man who came forward at Christmas last year to profess his faith in Christ. As he bent forward slightly, nervous, I dipped my thumb in the ashes and marked a cross, my arms limp from the heaviness of the moment. I am so not worthy of this calling and yet I am so thankful to have been called.
Lord, thank you for a staff that models you for our students and for students who so openly seek to know you better. May we prove worthy of this calling and may we all repent and believe the Gospel, knowing that from dust we were created and to dust our earthly bodies shall return.