I recall times in the past when I received the sign of the cross in ashes on my forehead and someone has reached up to wipe my forehead clean saying “Here let me help you. You have something on your forehead.” To which I have replied “Thanks but I need that smear of ashes on my forehead to remind me that Someone has done something to help me.”
Ash Wednesday is a traditional Christian observance that reminds us to reflect on the direction of our life, in particular to consider where in our life we are sinning, to ask for forgiveness and to then change the direction of our life. Each year it is to be a cleansing experience where you can look deeply into your life for those spaces that need yet to be cleaned.
Ashes in ancient times were used to express grief. In the Bible there are many situations where people cover themselves with ashes, or pour ashes over their heads, as a sign of great grief. Modern day Christians have adopted the ritual with the sign of a cross in ashes on our forehead. One receives this mark acknowledging sinfulness and the desire to repent and grow and to move in a new direction, a direction God would desire for our lives. As Christians we know that we receive this forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
I wonder, what would it be like if our entire nation took this day seriously and confessed of our individual sins and committed to move in a new direction as God would desire?
I wonder, will you this year be willing to take this step this year?
According to the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday happens every year 46 days before Easter (if you count this out, don’t forget to omit counting the Sundays). This year it is March 1. We want to make this first step of new possibilities available to all. We will hold a short service at Carmel UMC at noon and then another longer, more traditional service at 7 p.m.
In addition to those very traditional opportunities, we thought that we would be creative and open up new possibilities. A drive-thru Ash Wednesday opportunity we are calling #AshMe is from 6:30 to 9 a.m. March 1. Drive through the south drive of Carmel UMC (126th Street and Range Line Road) and receive your ashes. You don’t have to get out of your car or do anything more. Just driving through you are saying “ash-me.” Drive away with that reminder of ashes and a cross. Throughout your day you will see this reminder every time you look in the mirror, and I am sure that others will remind you that you have a smudge on your forehead! Repent and think about what you need to be forgiven for and then make a commitment to change and live in a new direction.
Rev. Patti Napier is senior pastor at Carmel United Methodist Church.