Ash Wednesday worship has long heralded the beginning of Lent. On February 26 at both Noon and 7:30PM The Lutheran Church of Our Savior will hold this worship service of confession, reflection, and the imposition of ashes to begin the Lenten journey toward Holy Week and Easter. This ancient ritual is filled with spiritual significance for Christians. Here are the main ones.
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These are the words spoken by the pastor as an ashen cross is smudged on one’s brow. Like the words spoken at a funeral committal, ashes are a reminder of our mortality and finitude. They remind us we cannot escape death, no matter how hard we may try to keep it at arm’s length or deny its reality in our lives.
Ashes remind us how at one time they were rubbed on one’s skin to eliminate hard to remove dirt. Lent is also a time of cleansing and renewal. We pray along with the psalmist to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”, and are reminded of God’s cleansing Spirit of renewal in our lives.
Finally, because the smudged cross is made with ashes mixed with oil, we are reminded of the mark with oil placed on our brow at baptism. We remember the promise we were given, “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” In the waters of baptism we have been joined to both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And while the ashes remind us of our eventual death, the smudged cross reminds us death does not have the last word. As people “of the smudge” we are people who trust in the resurrection to new life it offers through faith in the risen Christ. In Lent we journey both toward the cross and the empty tomb. And this gives us hope.
In these days we need a reminder of hope as we rush from one place to the next. So Pastor Wayne Zschech and any who choose to join him will be offering the imposition of ashes at the Westmont PATCO station for an “Ash & Dash Experience” from 7:00-8:30 am on February 26. Contact Pastor Wayne if you want to join him on Ash Wednesday at the station.