Acts 3:19-20: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
Ash Wednesday is not, and never was, an observance in Biblical times. It came later as the church searched for ways to call people to life-change experiences, especially as it relates to the Lenten season. Historically, the church liturgy has used an obscure prophet’s writing about a little-recorded event to focus on God’s word and His will for the beginning of Lent. The minor prophet Joel tells of an invasion of locusts that devastated Palestine, and interprets that as the coming Day of the Lord, when God will destroy all who oppose His will. That was a popular interpretation by the Prophets of The Old Testament, and continues to get attention by some religious people today. Joel calls on the people to “repent sincerely and return to me with fasting and weeping and mourning.“ (Joel 2:12)
When Peter, the Apostle, preached his moving sermon in the Temple, he echoed that significant truth by saying, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins.” (Acts 3:20) Repentance, then and now, means to turn toward God, or to re-focus our spiritual lives on God, which is the purpose of every Lenten observance.
As a physical reminder, we who seriously plan to observe spiritual disciplines begin when a minister often says in putting a cross of ashes on our forehead, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is a reminder of what God said to Adam and Eve as they left the Garden, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Job lamented at the end of his book, “So I am ashamed of all I said and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6) Ashes on our forehead is our determination to remember who we are, and who we will become, if we repent and start a new and fresh spiritual experience.
Prayer: Loving and forgiving Father, I am grateful that you respond to our willingness to make a fresh start by empowering us by your grace. AMEN
Reverend Dr. Regi Thackston
Trinity UMC Pastor Emeritus