A Protestant dabbling with Ash Wednesday
I am a poor and wretched soul, deprived of history and the heritage of the Christian faith. Being ‘protestant’ I’ve never really understood Lent or ‘ash Wednesday’; so this year I wanted to experience what our friends in the orthodox faith have done for centuries. So early this morning I invited some friend from our community to explore with me, diving into the rich plethora of our history.
At 6:30 we all gathered at the church and dove into what Ash Wednesday is all about. We talked about the season of Lent and how on Ash Wednesday the priest would read this verse:
“I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27)
And make the cross on the foreheads of the people. We read the liturgy for the day together, discussing how cool it was that millions of Christians read it today. Then we prayed and asked God in silence what He wanted us to fast from during the season of Lent.
After this I invited the people to make a cross on their foreheads – and here is where my protestant upbringing definitely showed! I realized that we needed a marker to make the cross! I whispered to Lollie to find some Sharpies, Lollie returned with the markers, finding us in a somber ‘holy’ atmosphere – me explaining that we will now use the Sharpies (permanent markers) to make the crosses. Lollie looked at me incredulous and said:
‘Tom, it will be on us permanently’
To which Nancy replied:
‘It will stay on till October!’
The ‘holy’ moment was ruptured by uncontrollable laughter – which I think made it even holier. Some of us made crosses on our foreheads and walked with it all day. Now I work in a church and it was even hard for me to walk around my fellow evangelical buddies with the smudge on my head. Later in the day I went to Starbucks and got quite a few stares, I could feel the vibes in the stare: This guy must be part of a cult. Then I went to Focus on the Family to visit a friend – oh my gosh!
The day showed me how easily I am ashamed to ‘show the markings’ of Christ – even in an Evangelical town like Colorado Springs. I am reminded tonight that:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile Romans 1:16
Next year I’ll do it again – if you’ve never done it – join me – and millions of other Christians.