Through the new eyes of a diehard Evangelical
Until this year I have never sought an in-depth answer to this question. Raised in a typical 1970’s Evangelical tradition it quite frankly never came up. In 1987, as a new student at Pacific Lutheran University, I remember seeing students with smudges on their foreheads. Though I don’t remember asking but knowing my personality I’m sure I asked one or two what was going on. Whatever their answers were I was not moved to engage in the practice. In all honesty I have thought the traditional practices of the Christian calendar cool but not for me…It never crossed my mind that these practices might actually enrich my walk with Christ.
Serving on the John Knox staff has made me ‘hungry’ for knowledge regarding these practices and eager to enrich my walk with Christ. Let me share a little of what I’ve learned:
Ash Wednesday is a Christian Holy Day marking the beginning of Lent. Lent is a six week season of preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday, like other Christian Holy Days such as Christmas and Easter, is not biblically mandated although it is shaped by a biblical theology of creation, sin, mortality, death, grace and salvation. Around the tenth century, all believers began to signify their need for repentance by having ashes, in the shape of a cross, placed on their foreheads. A very tangible expression of their mortality. The ashes were from the burnt palm branches used on Palm Sunday. The visual of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Branches, knowing that He was coming to die for our sins is powerful. Convicting really. How perfect that the ashes of those branches be used to remind us of our own impending mortality. How perfect that those palm ashes be used to remind us that our sin is what brought Jesus to suffer and die. How perfect that the ashes be made in the sign of the cross!
Ash Wednesday is a time to acknowledge our mortality. To admit that from dust we came and to dust we shall return Genesis 3:19. To admit that our sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. Galatians 5: 24 Morose right? Not as believers! As believers we are able to stare death in the face with the assurance of life, eternal life. When we know our lives are safe in the hands of God, our physical life is just the beginning of eternity, then we can face our mortality without fear. 1 Peter 2:24 The emotional result of Ash Wednesday isn’t sadness but rather Gratitude for a savior and New Energy for living.
This year on February 18th we will have be a short service geared for young children observing Ash Wednesday at John Knox. Class times remain the same but we hope you and your children will join us at 12:00 – 12:15pm in the main sanctuary.
It promises to be a meaningful time for us to gather as a community of believers seeking to pass our faith on to our children in a format they can attain.