Ash Wednesday: A Promise of Rescue
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
by Pastor Paula Lawhead
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent—the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday. When I was a little girl I loved Ash Wednesday and the reverence of that particular service. Well, I loved it until the ashes dried and flaked off onto my nose or got itchy on my forehead, and I ended up making a mess of my head and pretty much anything else I touched.
Of course, as a child I did not fully understand the meaning behind the day. I understood that we all die, and as God formed us from dirt at the beginning, we return to the ground at death. But the truth of this fleeting life—the understanding that life is short—was lost on me. It’s only now that I realize how tightly I need to cling to the promise of being held by my Creator; when all I want to hang onto is youth, and potential, and more time. In the big picture, we are here for such a short time. We try to preserve what we have, but we learn from experience that we cannot hang onto everything forever.
Thankfully, this reverent reminder of our mortality is not the focus of the whole 40 days of Lent, but it is helpful to come face-to-face with it once in a while in our life of faith. So what, then, are we to take from this reminder of our mortality? It is simply, that without Someone to save us, we cannot escape sin, death, and the devil.
To recognize our own shortcomings opens our eyes to our need of a Savior. For 40 days we look to the heavens wondering where will our help come from? And then we are comforted; for we know already that our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth—the same One who created you rescues you. The promise of new life has been given, and the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps will keep your life now and forevermore. (Read more in Psalm 121)
As we recognize that we are people in need of a Savior, God delivers on that promise. We walk through Lent toward the cross of Jesus, and then through it, and then beyond it—for Resurrection is coming. Be assured, the Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
To adorn our foreheads with a cross of ashes is to be claimed by the One who bore that cross for our sake. Promise fulfilled. Thanks be to God!
(Related: Pastor Paula’s 2019 Ash Wednesday reflection)