We begin the season of Lent next week with our Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday, February 26th at 6:00pm in the sanctuary. In talking about Ash Wednesday with a few people this week, I was reminded that many of you may have questions about this service. It may seem a little odd to attend a service where ashes are placed on one’s head. What is Ash Wednesday all about, and why do we as Christians take part in a service like this?
Perhaps the words of Psalm 51 can help us in answering this basic question. Psalm 51 is one that is traditionally used as a part of our Ash Wednesday services. I believe the following selected verses explain what is at the heart of our worship on Ash Wednesday.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of just how much we are in need of God. In the course of our service we are confronted with the truth that we are a people who are in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. We long for God to wash us clean from sin, renew our hearts, and restore our relationship with the divine. Therefore as a sign of repentance, we place ashes on our bodies. Receiving the sign of ashes is also a physical reminder of our mortality and of our identity in relationship to God. We are the created and God is the creator. We are the finite and God is the infinite. We are the earthly and God is the eternal.
I invite you to come and worship with us next Wednesday evening so that we might all receive this important reminder of our right relationship with God as we enter into the season of Lent.