Ash Wednesday services at 9:30 am and 7:30 pm will be simple, spoken communion services.
You will hear the invitation to Lent and be invited to write down your own Lenten discipline(s). In an earlier email I suggested that you should look at these disciplines broadly. Whatever your personal Lenten discipline I hope that in the six weeks of Lent you will make a special effort to let your life be fed by the word and sacrament worship offered to you on Sunday morning, at Peace, or at some other church if you are traveling. The discipline of Sunday morning worship is the food and water of life for the Christian heart.
A ritual of Ash Wednesday is the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. The ashes are from last year’s palm branches. Imposed on your skin and skulls, the ashes are not an ancient ritual or a Catholic ritual (as some have told me over the years). Ashes on our foreheads remind each of us that we, along with every living thing around us, will die. The ashes remind us of the fleeting nature of our troubles and triumphs. The ashes remind us of the grace of Jesus Christ that follows us into the ashes of this mortal life. In the ashes, so to speak, is the most profound proclamation of the Christian gospel.
Ash Wednesday is the day of the great confession. In it we claim who we are. There is a great freedom and release in confessing who we are. In the Christian order of things, forgiveness follows confession.
Following the confession of Ash Wednesday comes a time of amendment of life, which is Lent.
We can do better. We can be kinder and more patient people. We can be more committed in our observance of our faith. We can be more charitable in our assessment of others. We can make better use of our time and of our resources. Lent invites us to turn to a few amendments of our lives.
Ash Wednesday is a day of foolishness. The ashes make us self-conscious.
Ash Wednesday is a curious observance to a death-denying secular culture. It is a strange observance to much of the church today, especially to Protestants–and, ironically, to much of the church throughout the Christian centuries–in it’s denial of death and its twin denial of the earth.
Christians need not keep an Ash Wednesday observance, but the day stands on our calendar with an offering to remind us of the limits of life and of the unlimited love of God. The two are known together.