Good Ash Wednesday morning to all. Ash Wednesday Service will take place tonight at 7:00 p.m. via ZOOM using the Sunday morning worship link Please see message below:
I can remember working with individuals in the Prince George’s County School System some 20 years ago who would always on this day leave the office and go to their churches and return to school or the workplace with a cross marked on their foreheads. For a long time, I ignored it and thought it was for Catholics only, and just expected it to happen each year. As I became more interested in the liturgical year and a deeper commitment to my Christian beliefs, I became more interested in the special days on the Christian calendar. It is my belief that if you are going to practice a tradition, know why and what its meaning is for you. I grew up Baptist and we had not been exposed to or introduced to Ash Wednesday.
Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Lent in 2022. Again, if we are going to celebrate this day, then we should know why we are celebrating it. Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance, fasting and prayer. The name of the day comes from the custom that churchgoers (believers) are marked on the forehead with a cross of ash to symbolize death and regret for past sins. The pastor, priest or worship leader will accompany the marking with a recital of Genesis 3:19: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The tradition of marking with ashes began in the early church as a way for persistent sinners to outwardly show their desire for repentance. By the end of the 10th century, the custom had spread to all the faithful.
Usually, the ashes are created from the burning of the palms used in the church on Palm Sunday the previous year. Palm Sunday marked the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem after his 40 days and nights in the desert.
Traditionally, the 40 days before Easter, the Roman Catholics were supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures, including the consumption of meat. This practice was to remember the fasting of Jesus, who spent 40 days in the desert before starting his ministry. In most denominations or faiths, Lent gets off to an appropriate start with Ash Wednesday as it is a day of fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance. I am sure many of us have already decided what we will be giving up for Lent. Remember it does not necessarily have to be the giving up of something, it could possibly be taking on new challenges.
Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, markings of ashes in remembrance of Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice and resurrection.
Just a note about Lent. Lent is longer than the 40 days as Sunday was seen as a special feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, so it is excluded from the calculation of Lent. Lent is the Monday to Saturday in the six weeks before Easter Sunday (6 days x 6 weeks=36 days) and adding the Wednesday to Saturday in the week before brings us to the 40 days.
Because of COVID-19, we will not be able to administer the ashes in person, but we will worship tonight via ZOOM and ask that you place the ashes on your own forehead or have a family member do it while the pastor is reciting, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
What is key and of utmost importance is that there will be a heart adjustment or change during the next 40 days. The hope is that we hold out and onto those practices for 40 days, then we should be able to do it throughout the year. Let’s say you give up smoking for 40 days, then why can’t we give it up for good? Just a think about.
As we read Matthew 4:1-11, we find these words: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Please open your Bibles and read the rest of the story for yourself.
The point I wish to make is that the devil is going to try to get into our minds and hearts during this season of Lent, but we are to be strong, persevere and prove to ourselves and God that we can do this. We are indeed conquerors!
Think about all the hatred and evil we have observed over the course of the last few years. It appears that we are a disjointed and unhinged people in America. My prayer and hope today is that we will become the loving, caring and committed people that God expects us to become.
Wear your ashes, but wear them with a purpose of establishing a closer relationship with God.
Not a sermon, just my thoughts!
Robert Earl Slade, Pastor