Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our Lenten journey, which culminates on Easter Sunday with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
On that night at worship we mark our foreheads with an ash cross and, as that cross is marked, we are reminded of our sins. As we are marked by Jesus’ sacrifice; we are drawn to the realization that “[we] are dust, and to dust [we] shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
On Ash Wednesday and throughout the season of Lent, we also focus on our sins, on repentance, and on our broken world; seeing how we and all of creation has fallen far short of God’s intention and glory.
But we do not despair because we look to the certain hope that is ours through the forgiveness of our sins given to us freely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.
THE IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Everything we experience in life is finite and temporal, including our own lives. As the Scripture reports, we came from the dust of the ground and we will return to the dust of the ground. (Genesis 3:19 & Ecclesiastes 3:20)
For many centuries the use of ashes has symbolized repentance. Imposing ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead of the worshipper on Ash Wednesday is a vivid reminder that such a person has been redeemed by Christ the Crucified. It is a symbol, not primarily of our sins, but upon the forgiveness of them through faith in Jesus.
As Ash Wednesday is a somber time as we remember that Jesus willingly suffering and death come as a result of our sins and His love. As such, at the conclusion of worship that day, we exit the church in silence.
“Repentance slays selfish pride, turns us from sin’s siren call, quiets arrogant arguments, tames out-of-control egos, pulls us back from distraction, leads us to restoration of relationships, places us on the pathway of walking with God, and restores our hearts with compassion and grace.
We need this personally. We need this as schools and congregations. We need this as a District. We need this as a Synod. We need this as Christ’s Church.”The Rev. Mike Newman
President of the Texas District of the LC-MS