Ash Wednesday and Lent prepare us for Easter. Our Footprints ministries focus on the seasons of the Christian year as it helps us understand the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and our responses to it.
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Worship for the day focuses on the themes of sin and death in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ. Traditional words in the service are “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We receive everlasting life only as a gift of God’s grace.
Scripture refers to ashes both as a sign of mortality and a sign of repentance. The palms used on Palm Sunday are burned and mixed with oil to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. In the service, the pastor uses the ashes to make a cross on the forehead of each worshipper. This year, people may choose to attend the service without receiving the imposition of ashes. Worshippers are called to observe Lent as a time of repentance, prayer, and self-denial; of meditation on Jesus’ life and death; and of giving oneself to others, especially to those who suffer and are in need.
The tradition of giving things up for Lent grew out of Lenten penance for sin and fasting to be one with Jesus in suffering. Individuals may give to people in need the money saved from their practice of self-denial. Other people choose to add a spiritual discipline during Lent such as reading a daily devotional, spending more time in prayer, or adopting a service project.
For centuries, believers gave up all milk, meat, and eggs during Lent. The days before Ash Wednesday were a time of feasting to con sume these products. This feasting was called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, and has evolved into a time of celebrating and gathering with family and friends.
As the opening activity of Lent, the Ash Wednesday service invites us to spend some time in reflection on God’s love for us and to help others as a sacrifice in honor of Jesus.