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Ecumenical Ash Wednesday Services will be held at Christ UMC on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 7 p.m.
3 March 2014Posted by on
This coming Wednesday (March 5, 2014) marks the beginning of the season of Lent. At noon Pastor Tonya, of First United Methodist Church, and I will lead a service to accommodate those who have difficulty getting out after dark; that service will be at First UMC. Then at 7 pm, Christ UMC will host a joint service for the congregations of Holy Trinity AME, Christ and First United Methodist Churches, and Potter’s House Ministries, with the voluntary imposition of ashes. Bishop Tilghman of Potter’s House Ministries will bring the message at this service.
Lent is a forty day spiritual journey that every Christian is invited to undertake in preparation for the joyous celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter morning. The length of forty days is rooted in several historical events: Moses’ stay on Mt. Sinai at the giving of the law, Elijah’s fast on his way to the mountain of God, Jesus’ forty-day fast at the beginning of His ministry, among others. The forty days are counted backward from Easter. Since all regular Sunday worship services are an observance of Jesus’ resurrection, and thus occasions for celebration and joy, the Sundays during this period are not counted in the forty days of fasting and somber remembrance of Jesus’ journey to the Cross. Since Easter always falls on Sunday, the season of Lent always begins on a Wednesday; there is never such a day as “Ash Tuesday” or “Ash Thursday.”
For almost 2,000 years Christians have begun the Lenten journey with a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance through the placing of ashes (Genesis 18:27, Job 42:6, Jeremiah 6:26, Matthew 11:21). Ashes are a sign of repentance and recognition of our sinfulness, recognizing the need for Jesus’ sacrifice for our spiritual cleansing. That is why the early Christian believers adopted the use of ashes as a symbol of sorrow and repentance over sin. This has been the normal practice of the Christian Church from the First Century onward. Today, imposition of ashes is practiced by believers in many Christian churches and denominations in all corners of God’s Creation.
It is this ancient practice of placing ashes on the heads of the faithful that gives Ash Wednesday its name. The ashes are a strong reminder of the need for God’s mercy, forgiveness, and the redeeming grace of Jesus’ Love. The expression “… earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust … ” is a part of the burial service and someday will be spoken over every one of us.
The ashes for this ceremony are taken from the palm branches of the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. These palms are gathered, burned, and then sifted, and placed in a shallow dish for the imposition. After a brief introduction, a pastor will mark a cross of ashes on each person’s forehead as they stand near the church’s chancel rail.
Christ United Methodist Church is located at 401 High Street, Chestertown, MD 21620; Hope to see you at the service.
PS: In case you are interested
Easter occurs in spring, close to the vernal equinox. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, unless the full moon is on the equinox, in which case it is on the Sunday following the full moon. The vernal equinox always falls on March 20. This year the first full moon following the vernal equinox is Tuesday, April 15, 2014; which in turn means that Easter 2014 will be celebrated on Sunday, April 20, 2014.