12:00 pm and 6:30 pm worship service.
12:45 pm – Teams will depart for Union Square to offer prayers and ashes to the community. Please consider joining us this year.
Many wonder why many Christians wear ashes on their forehead at the beginning of Lent. Are they showing off? Are they trying to stand out? Is it some weird secret church ritual? What does it mean? Should I get them too?
There are three reasons why Lutheran-Christians go to church to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. First, the ashes remind people of their sinfulness. Second, the ashes remind people of their mortality. Third, the ashes remind people that they have been redeemed. Let’s unpack this a bit.
Since ancient times, God’s people have used ashes as a sign of humble repentance (e.g. Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3: Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). This tradition was carried on by the early church and remains an important tradition today. When one willingly goes up to receive ashes on their forehead, they are admitting that they are sinners in desperate need of salvation. They are admitting that they have sinned not only against their neighbors, but against God. The ashes demonstrate that without God, all people are spiritually dead. The ashes remind the wearer of their need to repent and confess in order to be turned back to God.
The receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday also remind people of their mortality, which is the direct result of God’s condemnation of our sin. God said to Adam, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Ashes serve as a solemn reminder that the price of sin is death. We cannot escape death. Often, people today feel as if they are invincible. It’s easy to feel like we’re at the top of the world, capable of doing anything that we desire. People don’t like to think about death. Our culture has seemingly sterilized death. We make every attempt to avoid death. Death is uncomfortable. And, that’s why ashes are so important. They are the physical reminder that God created us from the dust of the earth and one day all of us will return to the dust of the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. The ashes force us to remember that we are merely mortal and that we are not God.
Ashes also tell us the good news of the Gospel! You see, ashes aren’t just smeared randomly or haphazardly across people’s foreheads. The ashes are given in the shape of the cross. In receiving the ashes, we remember that our Lord Jesus took on the fullness of our humanity. Jesus the Christ was crucified on a cross. He was crucified for you. Then Jesus conquered death through His resurrection. He was resurrected for all of us. In doing so, He has taken the ashes of our past and created in us new life, allowing us to live forever in the holy presence of God! He has redeemed us, making us clean and new. Through the cross of Christ, the power of death has been destroyed. Through the cross there is life. The cross-shaped ashes on our foreheads proclaim the good news that sin and death have been conquered through the cross of Christ.
In many Lutheran Ash Wednesday services, the Lord’s Supper immediately follows the receiving of ashes. We, who were once dead in our sins, come to the Lord’s Table literally wearing the cross of Christ. Here, at the Lord’s table, those who have humbled themselves before the Lord, who have admitted their sin, are instead given the new life that is only found through the body and blood of our loving Lord Jesus. Here, at the Lord’s table, those marked with the cross of Christ are raised up, strengthened through God’s mercy, love, and grace, and sent forth into the world to proclaim the good news!
This year, Ash Wednesday is on February 26th. We encourage you to attend our 12:00 pm or 6:30 pm service at GA. We also invite you to join the GA team who will be gathered in Union Square Park to offer Prayer and Ashes to anyone who wants them. This is a powerful statement of our public faith in Jesus.