Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Church season of Lent. Traditionally Christians receive the mark of the cross on their forehead in ashes from the burnt palms from the previous Palm Sunday. It's meant to make significant statements about our state as followers of Christ. Christians are recognizing their sinfulness and mortality. Christians are also acknowledging their utter dependence on Christ. They are joining Him in the journey to the cross. Lent is the season where Christians reconnect with Christ's call to take up our cross and follow Him. These statements are meant to have great gravity in the life of a Christian. If taken seriously, they have consequences that are rarely convenient.
That's why I won't be driving through any church or or other trendy, convenient location for my cross of ashes. Drive-thru imposition of ashes is getting increasing attention in the media. (Read here, here, and here for a few examples.) The title of the NBC News article alone ought to give one pause, "Lent made easy: Get your 'ashes to go.'" An act meant to impress upon people the gravity of their circumstances and deep need for Christ has been made "easy" for the convenience of Christ's "customers." Can I get a skinny mocha latte with that? Unfortunately it may come to that.
Making this important day and act of discipleship as easy as ordering at the drive-thru of Starbuck's strips Ash Wednesday of its gravity. If I don't take the time to remember and reflect on my sinfulness, mortality, and dependence on Christ, I will drift toward a convenient faith that "ashes to go" promises. On the surface, this seems to be a hip and relevant adaptation of a spiritual practice. But it sends all the wrong messages about the way of faith. I can't afford to take faith that lightly. No one can.