“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
I just received a bag of ashes in the mail from Amazon. According to the labeling, it should be adequate to impose ashes on 1,000 people. I have my doubts the supply will go this far, but only time will tell. I’m also wondering about the lasting impact these ashes will have on those of us who are receiving them.
Is Ash Wednesday an empty ritual?
On occasion I’ve debated with some evangelical friends regarding the legitimacy of the Ash Wednesday service. After all, Jesus warned against practicing our piety before others in order to be seen by others. Interestingly, this same warning happens to be the lectionary Gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday. But since God accepted ashes as a sign of repentance in the Old Testament, I think it is an acceptable sign for us today. (Jonah 3:5-7; 1 Kings 21:27; Daniel 9:3)
Ashes can remind us of our mortality (Genesis 3:19) and the day when we will stand before God and be judged. To prepare for this day, we must die to ourselves and rise to new life in Christ (Luke 9:23; 1 Peter 2:24). Ashes are an invitation to set aside the next 40 days for prayer, fasting, self-denial and meditating on God’s Word. It is a time for being reconciled to God and each other.
Ash Wednesday ashes are a call for us to repent and believe the Gospel.