Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season. Lent has 40 days, the same number of days for which Jesus fasted and was tempted by the devil in the wilderness after He was baptized (Matthew 4). Lent is a time for Christians to reflect upon baptism and to fast, following the example of Jesus.
The school-wide Ash Wednesday Matins service included placing ashes on foreheads in the shape of a cross by the pastor. Consider what the Scriptures say about dust and ashes:
Abraham interceded for Sodom before the Lord and confessed his own mortality, “I who am but dust and ashes.” (Genesis 18:27)
After Tamar was shamefully treated by Amnon, she “put ashes on her head” as a sign of humiliation. (2 Samuel 13:19)
Daniel prayed “with fasting… and ashes,” saying, “we have sinned and done wrong….” (Daniel 9)
The Lord “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
The Lord God said to Adam after He had eaten of the forbidden fruit, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
The ashes on our foreheads remind us that we share in Adam’s sin and its consequence: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…” (Romans 5:12). The ashes are put on foreheads in the shape of a cross to remind us that Christ has died for our sins and made peace for us “by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). The ashen cross on our foreheads, then, reminds us of two things: 1. Our sin, and 2. Our Redeemer, Jesus.
Rev. Stephen W. Kieser