Ash Wednesday

Ash cross on one's forehead, the symbol that is placed there on Ash Wednesday.
Ash cross on one’s forehead, the reminder and symbol that is placed there on Ash Wednesday.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  “Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as many in the Christian faith begin their journey to the baptismal waters of Easter.  The themes and images from the scripture usually appointed on Ash Wednesday repeat the notion that now is the acceptable time to “return to the Lord.”  During Lent, there is more intention it seems to reflect on the meaning of one’s baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.  The sign of ashes suggests one’s human mortality and frailty.  What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which God’s people are washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness.  With the cross on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the springtime Easter feast to come” (from Sundays and Seasons, 107).

That introduction to the day is an adapted version from Sundays and Seasons which I have used when crafting the bulletins and writing the liturgy in the past.

I have always struggled with the expression of some to be as depressed and seemingly overly solemn during Lent.  Some friends of mine, make a conscious effort to wear more black colored clothing, or even change their Facebook pictures to ashes.  I can’t quite get behind that, because for me that can just reiterate the sadness and pain of the world- readily apparent with conflict raging in Ukraine, Uganda, Venezuela, and the challenges with discrimination and injustice in our own communities (or as others have said humankind’s “destructive, catastrophic predicament“).  Yes, it’s important to reflect on the sadness, brokenness and frailty which Lent provides an opportunity to do so, but I am not sure becoming overly sad and solemn for a 40-day period is always the best way and invitation to participate.

A year ago, I saw the phrase:

“Gracious God, you make beautiful things out of dust and you make beautiful things out of us.”

I like this frame for Ash Wednesday and for Lent.  It seems to connect to creation, life, death, and resurrection better for me and obviously resonates more.  What do you think?  What comes to mind as you contemplate Ash Wednesday?  Do you observe the day?  If so, what do you do?  If not, what do you think of the idea of Ash Wednesday?

For those who observe Lent, let me close with an adapted prayer (from Evangelical Lutheran Worship) which I like as a way for gathering together to begin the Ash Wednesday service:

Gracious God, you make beautiful things out of dust and you make beautiful things out of us.  Out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors.  Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Image Credit:  Ashes on Forehead.


Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 26.

Sundays and Seasons:  2013, Year C Guide to Worship Planning, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2012), 107.

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