Updated: Mar 13, 2019
I’m going to begin a new line of blog posts on Thursdays that will deal with various theological thoughts I may be working through or that were brought to my attention. Today’s post is about a thought I had swirling around in my mind over the past week in preparation for Ash Wednesday.
In my last blog post (click here: https://tinyurl.com/y47kmhfs ) I discussed three reasons for the imposition of ashes. I will summarize them as:
1. Reminder that we are dust
2. Reminder that we are sinners
3. Reminder that Christ places his mark on us through Word and Sacraments (specifically Baptism)
Now, have you ever had a thought about how things work together in the Scriptures but wonder, “Hey, is that a new thought of my own or did anyone else think like this?”
Well, my friends know that sometimes this is how I work through theological issues. I like to think them through and run them over and over in my head and heart, praying, checking the Scriptures, to make sure that my thoughts align with God’s Word.
Something an old professor taught us comes to mind when this happens: If it was never taught or preached before, throw out that thought. My husband always reminds me that if the theology is new, better run from it. So with those guarding thoughts, I kept it to myself until just before receiving the mark of the ashes on my forehead last night. I leaned over and whispered this to my husband:
Remember how Luther said to us that every time we wash our face we should remember our baptism? Well, think about how this mark of being creatures made from dust, our fallen state which should cause us to mourn, and redemption in Christ Jesus is going to get emphasized when we wash our face tonight.
He smiled and nodded his agreement.
As the service progressed, the Prayer of the Day was as follows:
O God, Father of love and Author of mercy, even as ashes wash off with soap and water, You have washed away our sins with the blood of Jesus and the waters of Baptism. Grant us in these forty days of Lent new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from You full pardon and peace; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Did you catch it? “…even as ashes wash off with soap and water, You have washed away our sins with the blood of Jesus and the waters of Baptism.”
I wasn't the only one who had thought of this correlation between the ashes and that when we wash them off it truly does remind us of our Baptism and how in those Waters with the Word we have been washed clean from all our sins.
So, if you received ashes yesterday, when you washed your face and by that water wash off the marks of sin and sorrow for sins, did you remember your baptism? Did you recall that just as the water you used last night to wash off the mark your Baptism washed away all your sins?
What a visual!!!
I stood before the sink in our bathroom looking into the mirror with the sign of the cross on my forehead and cried knowing that all the promises of God and Salvation were not only sealed in water Baptism but were actually done. For me, washing off the ashes reminded me that God in Christ Jesus has washed away my many sins and made me clean in His sight.
This was a powerful moment where by washing off the dirt, soot and ashes, which symbolize that we are made of dust and to dust will return, that we are sinners in need of true washing, and in the sign of the Cross reminds us of salvation in Jesus. As our Pastor says to each of us as we come up for the imposition of Ashes,
“Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but the blood of Christ assures you of the resurrection.”
How wonderful that God has stooped down to us and given us simple ways to remember His great salvation. Water. Simple water. Though baptized once, we can do as Martin Luther encouraged us to do: When you wash your face, remember your baptism.
I pray that on Ash Wednesday next year you too will remember this and by it your faith strengthen and built up in Christ Jesus.