Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline. Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: our sinfulness before God and our human mortality. The service focuses on both themes, helping us realize that both have been overcome through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ashes are an ancient symbol. In Genesis, we read that God formed human beings out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the first human beings are told by God, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 NRSV).
United Methodists first adopted an official ritual for Ash Wednesday that involves the use of ashes in the 1992 Book of Worship. Prior to that time, we either had no official service at all for this day (through 1964) or we had an “ashless” Ash Wednesday Service (1965 Book of Worship).
Prepare for a holy and transformative Lent!