I joked with my wife earlier this week that, when we worship on Ash Wednesday, our pastor will not have any trouble finding space on my forehead to draw an ash cross. In fact, he could draw a six-inch-high cross without ever coming close to the little hair that remains around the edges of my head.
I joked but there is a sober component to this Ash Wednesday ritual. I love the symbolism of imposing ashes. The accompanying words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” are a reminder of my mortality and a call to constant repentance. The ash cross proclaims that Jesus’ suffering and death have transformed my mortality into immortality and have replaced my life of sin with eternal life in heaven.
Ash Wednesday assures, in spite of my sin, “[Our Father] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9,10).
I am looking forward to worship this evening. No matter how big the pastor draws that cross. That is not a joke.