Decorating the sanctuary for Christmas 2017.
Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes, a practice that many Lutheran congregations have found to be a very meaningful part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
Taking ashes burned from the Palm fronds of the previous year’s Palm Sunday, we mark the foreheads of young and old alike with smeared, ashen crosses. We remind ourselves of the fragility and brokenness of life. We remember that “We are dust…and to dust we shall return.”
Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, often mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence.
Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence: First, they remind us of God’s grief and frustration over the nature of sin, as God said to Adam “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) Second, ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently in the absence of soap. Even on Ash Wednesday, this most penitential day, we receive ashes in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our bodies with water in our baptism. Even in this ashen mark of death, we anticipate the new life of Easter. Last, ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried into the ground or as ashes are placed in a columbarium. “We commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 284).
Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.
This Ash Wednesday, February 14th, you are invited to enter into an ashen “cross-walk” - a Lenten journey with the disciples of St. Mark. As we all remember the fragility and brokenness of life, through the sign of the cross marked on our foreheads, we remember the deepest love and passion that God has for each of us, and God’s willingness to enter into our pain and suffering and bring about healing and wholeness.
I hope you will join us this Ash Wednesday at one of two worship times:
Worship with us at 11 a.m. at St. Mark Lutheran (1120 Curlew Rd in Dunedin) for an intimate daytime service of Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion. Or join us and our brothers and sisters at St. Mark Village (2655 Nebraska Ave in Palm Harbor) at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel for a special evening service. This is a new worship opportunity we are trying this year to bridge relationships between our two communities that share the “Mark” of Christ. That evening we will share the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion as well as special music from St. Mark Lutheran musicians.
May you remember that you are dust this February 14th and may you cling to the promise, marked by the cross, of how DEEP and WIDE a LOVE God has…for us dusty, sinful, people.
St. Mark is a Reconciling in Christ Congregation.
The Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program is for congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, and other Lutheran organizations. Lutheran communities that publicly welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are accepted onto the Reconciling in Christ Roster which now exceeds 600 settings.
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