5 Themes for Ash Wednesday

February 1st, 2011

Every year on the Wednesday six and-a-half weeks before Easter Day, the church, the body of Christ, once again sets off on its Lenten journey. While we know that the cross, and ultimately resurrection, are our destination, we do not know what experiences and insights will meet us on our journey.

Preaching and worship for Ash Wednesday should generally be centered on five themes:

  • Ash Wednesday is the invitation into a lengthy preparation for our Lenten journey. You might reflect on all of the ways that we prepare for a journey or prepare for an important change in our life such as a wedding or the birth of a baby.
  • Unlike those joyful celebrations, we are preparing ourselves for repentance. This is a time to identify the ways that we have turned away from God, repent of those, and return. It is also a time to remind the congregation that our confession and repentance is grounded in God’s love and mercy. We do not repent so that God will love us but rather because God loves us.
  • Reconciliation between God and the people of God is, therefore, an important theme of the Ash Wednesday service. How do we come together with God? How do we come together with friend and family and stranger alike?
  • Fasting is another important theme of Ash Wednesday. Fasting reminds us that we are not passive, helpless individuals at the mercy of the world around us. We are able to, with God’s help, take control of our lives and reject those things that hurt and harm.
  • Ultimately, Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality. We are all on a journey that will end with our death—we are indeed ashes, and, one day, we will return to the earth from which we were formed. But we also declare that this is not the end but only the beginning of a journey that will last through eternity.

What are some creative ways pastors and church leaders can share these themes as the Christian community begins its observation of Lent?

adapted from: Just in Time! Lenten Services, by Lucy Lind Hogan Copyright©2009 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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