Today is a very special day. Today is Ash Wednesday. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. There is also a tradition that some people observe, where they give up some activity or vice for these 40 days. The idea behind this act is that by denying themselves this treasured item, they are aligning themselves with the suffering of Christ during his 40 days of temptation in the desert.
This day is also often marked with times of worship. During some Ash Wednesday services, the pastor will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. While the Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
To help mark this very important day, you will have two opportunities to gather for a time of prayer and worship on Ash Wednesday. First from 12 PM – 1 PM today, the Sanctuary will be open for you to come and observe a quiet time and space. You can come and sit in a pew or kneel at the altar rail. You can read Scripture, pray, or meditate. It will be your time to do that which helps you draw closer to God. I will be there to pray with you, if you desire, as well as to place ashes on your forehead when you are ready to leave. Then later this evening, we will also have a service at 6 P.M. in the Sanctuary. During this service, we will read Scripture and I will deliver a meditation entitled, “Who’s the Good Guy?” I encourage you to take advantage of these worship opportunities and to come be in the presence of God with your community of faith.
I want to leave you with an Ash Wednesday prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I pray that this Lenten season speaks to you in new ways, deeper ways, and that you feel the presence of our Triune God like never before.