“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
These unsettling words are the ones that we say every year on Ash Wednesday as we receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads. The ashes are made from dried palms left from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The dried palms are crumbled and then ground into a fine dust. The dust is mixed with oil to create a paste that is used to draw a cross on each person’s forehead.
The dust reminds us that we are mortal—that we were formed by the Creator out of the clay of the earth—and at the end of our lives, our bodies will be returned to the dust. Ash Wednesday reminds us about the fragility of life in a way that none of our other Christian holidays do. (Notice that modern media has not yet found a way to commercialize Ash Wednesday or to market it with an upbeat tone.)
Instead, Ash Wednesday is firmly reserved for somberness, vulnerability, penitence, and humility. The ritual reminds us that none of us will live forever, that our lives are fleeting. But, it also reminds us of the hope that we have in the gospel. Because of Jesus Christ, we have the chance to repent, to say we are sorry, to turn in a new direction. We have the opportunity to believe in the gospel and live with hope, even in the midst of this very fragile life on earth.
I hope you will join me in this very special time of Ash Wednesday worship on March 5. We’ll gather for a simple soup supper at 6:00 pm and then worship will follow at 7:00 pm.
I’ll be there to remember that though life is fragile I have an opportunity to repent and believe in the good news! Come to remember and repent!