February Pastor Letter: What is Ash Wednesday and Why Should I Attend
April 8, 2021 | Steven Walker
Next month, February 17th at 7:00 p.m., High Street will host our annual Ash Wednesday service. You may have heard about it and have wondered, “What is it, what will take place, and who is the service for?”
Ash Wednesday is an ancient practice of the church that allows us to tap into our rich tradition and legacy. The day marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days of spiritual reflection leading up to the celebration of Easter. The intervening six Sundays, are not part of Lent and therefore not counted. Those 40 days (Monday through Saturday) are given for us to reflect upon our human imperfection and the grace of God that works in and through the people of God to bring healing, wholeness and shalom. We can observe this through fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline in preparation for Easter. Thus, if you choose to give something up for Lent – Sunday is your day free from that spiritual discipline.
To begin this period of Lent we participate in Ash Wednesday. The focus is upon our sinful- ness (imperfection, brokenness and sin) and mortality. This helps us to realize the redemptive work of Jesus that overcomes both sin and death through his resurrection.
During the service, Mackenzie and I will make the sign of the cross with ashes upon the forehead of each person who comes forward. This is called “The imposition of ashes.”
Ashes have been used throughout both the ancient Hebrew and Christian traditions as a sign of our mortality and repentance. The sign of the cross signifies Christ’s redemptive work on our
behalf. To receive the cross of ashes on our forehead is our acknowledgment of our mortality, repentance, and reliance upon the grace of God at work in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
The imposition of ashes is for young and old alike. It is for parents with children who want to signify God’s redemptive grace is upon their child. It is for adults who want to begin the Lenten season with repentance in their hearts anticipating the good news of Easter resurrection.
It is traditional for us to save the palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service to burn to make the ashes used for the service.
The service is about 30-40 minutes long. We will sing, pray and I’ll give a brief message. The pinnacle of the service is the impositions of the ashes. People come forward, both Mackenzie and I will make the sign of the cross with the ashes on each forehead. Many people will then go to the altar rail to pray both individually, as a family or couple.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to make this a tradition in your household. For me, it is one of the most meaningful services of the year. It affirms for each soul touch on the forehead that God’s love will see them cross the chilly Jordan to the eternal life God intends when their time comes. That makes Ash Wednesday such a beautiful thing.
Note: Please remember to participate in our Covid Protocol when coming to church.
~ Pastor Steven Walker