Here's a note I sent out to our church about tomorrow. So tomorrow it begins. Lent is here. I hope you're excited as I am.
Tomorrow is the day known in Christian tradition as Ash Wednesday. Perhaps you're familiar with this but, if not, allow me to explain. The palm branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday were supposed to have been burned and the ashes kept. Then, on this day, the church would gather together at an early morning worship service. The minister would take his fingers, dip them in the palm ashes, and affix an ashen cross on the believer's forehead (many say the tradition is derived from the Genesis 3:19 text, "For from dust you are and to dust you will return”). Christians wear those ashes on their foreheads until they wear off.
Obviously, Echo Church isn't gathering tomorrow morning for a service; as a church that meets at night, I'm not sure what we'd do that early anyway. So while it might be disappointing that you won't get an ash cross on your forehead, I'll admit I'm a little relieved: I have a business meeting tomorrow night where it would be difficult for me to explain my markings. So if you see another Christian wearing ashes tomorrow, you might feel inferior. But perhaps there are other ways that you too can keep the cross on your mind throughout your day.
As for me, I plan on marking my palm with a miniature cross. This might sound like a weak substitution but this way, as I'm using my hands, I'll remember that this is the day we begin to look forward to the resurrection. Maybe you have a better idea or suggestion of how to replace the forehead ashes. I'd be interested in hearing it. Again, our point in this isn't to be mired in ritualism but to refocus on our faith. So do what you need to do to remember.
Regardless of how you do it, tomorrow we focus on the cross, and what Christ has done for us. Pray that God will transform you through this experience. I'll be praying for you.