Ash Wednesday: An Introduction

 The Meaning of Ashes

Ashes represent many things. The heaped up ashes in a hearth may indicate the benefit of warmth on a cold winter’s night. The charred remains of a personal property and its smoky ash from human or natural causes, indicates something entirely different. The product of a crematorium represents something jarringly dissimilar from the contents of a burn barrel or a campfire. 

The Product of Destruction 

Despite the positive and negative differences in the resulting ash, one thing is constant, ash is the product of burning and henceforth the destruction of something that once existed in a different form. 

Metaphorical Significance

From a metaphorical lens, ash represents loss. This is why the biblical portrayal of grief is attended by sackcloth and ashes, a dramatic representation of mourning for the person or thing of which one is deprived. 

A Wednesday to Recognize Moral and Mortal Loss 

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a day in which we recognize both the ticking clock of our mortal existence and the loss of an intimacy with God due to the sin that separates us, a loss that has plagued humanity since it was expelled from the Garden for its rebellion. 

A Wrong and Right View of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent

The Season of Lent is not a time to bathe ourselves in soot and wallow in our grief. It is a time of turning away from that which separates us from the God of creation. During this season in which we prepare ourselves to receive God’s ultimate gift of life through Christ, the ashes that should accompany us are those produced by the burning of the sins that beset us through repentance and renewal. These are the ashes of a broken and contrite heart which lead us to the One who “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap,” (1 Samuel 2:8). 

An Encouragement 

We trust that this Ash Wednesday Lectionary Guide will encourage you as you encourage your people while you both collectively enter this Lenten Season.  

Worship Resources

Below are some of the major themes for Ash Wednesday. Click on the links to find the resources you need:

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