As you travel around today, there will be many people out and about. As you continue to observe them, you may notice something is a bit off. They all have black smudges on their foreheads. This begs the question:
“Why in the world would these folks take time to go to a church and let some guy put ashes on their foreheads?”
Life can get busy! It happens to all of us as we fill our schedules with long work days, sporting events, school, and family time. My wife and I totally get it! We both work full-time jobs and parent 3 kids, ages 6 and under. In this world of craziness, it can be easy to put our faith on the back burner. That’s why services such as Ash Wednesday are so important. They remind us to regularly hit pause and reflect on the Gospel. In case you didn’t grow up in church or have never celebrated this ancient Christian tradition, let me unpack it for you.
During the Ash Wednesday service we sing, pray, and hear from God’s word. Through all of these things, we are reminded of our personal and corporate broken state apart from God. The whole thing culminates in Ashes being placed on our foreheads as someone speaks the words of Genesis 3:19 “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.” God is bluntly telling Adam and Eve the consequences of their disobedience. This one act ushered sin, sickness, and death into the world. By focusing our attention on these things we are reminded that we cannot do anything to save ourselves.
After this we receive Holy Communion, where we experience God’s grace, reminding us of the extravagant love of our redeeming God. Jesus laid down His very body and blood to give us new life and destroy the permanence of sin and death for all eternity. This news of grace is so sweet in light of our utter inability to rectify the situation.
So where ever you are, take time to reflect on your own depravity and need for a savior. Then rest assured knowing that Jesus’ promise is true for all believers,
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:5 (NIV)
God’s free gift to us is salvation and restoration. Remember, it was God who breathed into dust and gave it new life.