Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Church Year.  If you know anything about the season of Lent or about Ash Wednesday, you likely know that this is the day in which some Christians choose to have ashes placed on their forehead in the form of a cross.  In our congregations, as the pastor places the ashes upon the people he says: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  For us Christians these ashes are a sign of our sinful condition before the Lord.  Because of the sin which we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and the sins which we presently commit, we who in the beginning were formed from the dust of the earth will return in death to the dust from which we were made.  Even among those who do not yet know the Lord, death and our return to dust is a sure sign from creation itself that something isn’t right.  If life and all of its associated blessings are our goal, clearly something is not going according to plan.  The ashes are the Christian’s confession that our sins, our rebellion against God, and God’s righteous judgment of death upon us is that which was not a part of God’s original plan for us.
Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season, however, is not only a season of repentance.  In fact, Lent is predominantly a season of faith, as are all the seasons of the Church Year.  We place ashes on our heads as a sign of repentance of our sins, but we receive these ashes in the form of a cross as a sign of faith in Him who takes away the sins of the world.  We believe that Jesus, the perfect and eternal Son of God, was sent to us by the love of the Father so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.  Surely Jesus is for us He who was prophesied by Isaiah, who
has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).
In other words, Jesus entered the ashes of death and judgment on the cross for us, so that He might raise us up out of the ashes and into life with Him.
The ashes and the cross together, then, are the sign of our Lenten season and of our life in Christ as a whole.  Daily do we remember our sins in the ashes, and daily do we rejoice in our new life of forgiveness which blossoms from the cross of Christ.  Thus while the ashes and the sign of the cross are helpful outward signs which direct our faith to Jesus, even without them on our forehead we understand that the repentance and faith of our Christian life is something that happens within us.  Our Old Testament Scripture reading for today comes from the prophecy of Joel, a portion of which says:
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster (Joel 2:12-13).
The fasting and ashes and solemnity of Ash Wednesday and Lent are only representative of the true turning away from sin which happens in our hearts.  This is the genuine repentance which our Lord loves to see and to answer by His grace so that we may have full confidence through His Word that our sins are forgiven in Christ and that eternal life is ours in His name.

God bless you at the beginning of this Lenten season.  Be sure to check out our Partnership Lent and Easter worship schedule at church.  If there is any way I can be of any assistance to you in your walk with Christ during this special time of year, don’t hesitate to reach out or stop in.  

Joy in Christ,
Pastor Thomas Cowell
Ash Wednesday, Anno Domini 2023

Melissa Riggert