This week, I had the privilege of serving the body of Christ. It was my job to plunge my finger into a goopy mixture of ash and apply a cross to each forehead or hand presented to me and say,
“Jesus loves you. He died for you.”
An application of ash has been an Ash Wednesday tradition for as long as I can remember. It is always a meaningful service. But what does this tradition actually mean, other than signifying the beginning of Lent? Ashes have historically been used to express grief or as an external sign of sorrow or repentance. When ash is applied as part of a church service, it encourages people to examine their hearts and confess whatever sins they see there. Also, since it is usually applied in the shape of a cross, it reminds us that Jesus died to take away that sin. He died so we can be forgiven. Then, because of his love for us, we are encouraged to show acts of love to others.
From the time I was a child, when the ash cross was applied to my forehead I understood I was a sinner and that Jesus had died for me because he loved me. As I thought about that, I surrendered more completely to Jesus and felt great gratitude because he willingly died to take away my sin. The ash (sorrow for sin) precedes the joy.
Here is a link to a song that is sometimes part of an Ash Wednesday service:
I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section about Ash Wednesday or other thoughts.
Judy Vander Wege, 3-3-2022