Ash Wednesday Symbolizes Death to Sin, Life in Christ
It’s been almost a full year since we last opened the solemn season of Lent with
the imposition of ashes. As you may remember, we gathered in the sanctuary with our
friends from New Pittsburg United Methodist Church to mark the 40 days leading up to
the epic events of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the glorious resurrection of the
As it turned out, that would be one of our last public gatherings because word of
the coronavirus was about to force us to close our doors for three months. It would be a
dark and difficult year. Nearly half-a-million people would lose their lives, either directly
or indirectly, because of COVID 19.
Now, it appears that we are headed out of the darkness and into the light.
Promising vaccines are being administered as we speak, and perhaps by summer or
fall, this taxing ordeal will finally be behind us.
With good news on the horizon, we were hoping to gather in person for an Ash
Wednesday service next week, but for a variety of reasons, we have decided that our
Ash Wednesday service will be virtual this year. You will be able to access the service
through a link on our website (oakchapelumc.com).
As we prepare for that service, let us reflect on the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 9,
which is where we learn about the origins of this custom of imposing ashes…
Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, “Bring near those who are appointed to
execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.” And I saw six men
coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly
weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his
side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel
went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the
temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his
side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the
foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in
it.” As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without
showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the
mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.”
The graphic and unsettling passage of Scripture reminds us the Lent is very
clearly a time of judgment, but it is also a time for repentance and ultimately salvation.
Those who were marked were spared. Consider the irony of the mark we would
ordinarily receive on Ash Wednesday — ashes, the symbol of death. However, when
you think about it, it all makes sense. Jesus Christ died for our sins. In the same way,
we must be dead to sin so that we can be alive in Christ. Let us all come together as we
prepare to mark the beginning of Lent — albeit virtually — on Ash Wednesday.
Until we meet again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John