““That which you create in beauty and goodness and truth lives for all time to come. Don’t spend your life accumulating material objects that will only turn to dust and ashes.” ― Dennis Waitley – Writer
Today is Ash Wednesday, also known as “The Day of Ashes.” On this day, many Christians around the world begin the observance of Lent, a 40-Day (minus Sundays) period of prayer, fasting, penitence, and self-denial. During Lent, adherents draw closer to Jesus Christ by fasting food and other vices, and by repentance—turning away from sin toward righteous behavior. Some who attend an Ash Wednesday service like the one we are having at The Warehouse Church, OTR tonight at 7pm, will have the ashes of palm fronds placed on their heads in the sign of the cross to commemorate and identify themselves with the passion (suffering) of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Though the words Lent and Ash Wednesday cannot be found in the Bible, and the practice started in the 11th Century—there are many uses for ashes in Scripture. ASHES are defined as the powdery residue left after the burning of a substance; the remains of something destroyed; the remains of the human body after cremation or burning; and the powdery material thrown out by a volcano.
In Scripture, ashes were used for several purposes including: to express grief and anguish, to remind us of our mortality, to offer cleansing, and the refining fire of purification. When Daniel read from the prophet Jeremiah that Israel would be exiled for 70 years, he wrote, 3So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petition, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. (Dan. 9:3) Ashes were also used to pray for God’s intervention in tribulation. Haman’s scheme to annihilate the entire Jewish population was uncovered. Esther 4:1-3 says, 1When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. 2He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. 3And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes.
Ashes are a sign that something or someone has died. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that the anointing of the coming Messiah, whom we now know to be Jesus the Christ, has been given to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:2b-3) Christ offers us a Divine exchange when we’re grieving, sad, and sorrowful. So whether you use ashes as a physical sign this Lenten season, or you merely place these remembrances in your heart…this is a great time and opportunity for personal reflection, transformation, and renewal.