Today is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar, start of the season of Lent. Tonight we will gather in the sanctuary at 6pm for a worship service to commemorate this day and receive the mark of ashes upon our foreheads. I wanted to share with you a testimony about the power of the witness of these ashes that happened in March 2006 when I lived in Hudson:
On Wednesday evening we gathered in the sanctuary for a service to commemorate Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. After the service, Debbie, Parker and I went to run some errands. One of the places that we ended up was at the Wal-Mart in New Port Richey. We got some odd stares from people as we moved through the aisles - because we were still wearing our ashes upon our foreheads. I heard one gentlemen whisper to his wife as he passed us: "What are those things on their foreheads for?" And his wife answered him very matter-of-fact in her tone: "Today is Ash Wednesday - they've been to church." We weren't the only ones in the store though bearing ashes upon foreheads - I counted at least three other women in the store with them.
When we went to check out, I grabbed something from the cart and turned to put it up on the counter and the clerk looked at me, and then kind of jumped back a bit startled and said to me, "For a minute there I thought you looked like something out of a movie." I said "No, it's Ash Wednesday." His reply - "I know. I had a lady who came in the store earlier today with that on and she explained it to me." Then he glanced over at me. The clerk asked: "How come you don't have it on?" Then we realized that my hair had fallen down over my forehead and almost covered the ash cross there. I moved my hair back out of the way and you could clearly see the cross. And the clerk said, "Yeah, that's better. Aren't you supposed to wear those proudly or something?" And we told him: "Absolutely."
This was a young man who clearly understood the idea of marking your body for what you believe in - he was covered in tattoos that you could see coming out from under the sleeves and above the collar of his Wal-Mart uniform. For him it connected - He understood that we as Christians should not be ashamed or embarrassed to walk around in public with an ash cross upon our forehead if that is what we believe in.
I hope you will go out and wear your ashes proudly tonight wherever you end up. Use it as conversation starter with folks around you. But once Ash Wednesday has gone and the ashes that were upon our foreheads have been washed away - how will people in public know that we are Christians unashamed of who we believe in and profess to serve? They will know we are Christians by our LOVE. Let our love speak through our actions and words as loudly as our ash crosses in the days to come!
I hope to see you all tonight!