An Ash Wednesday Question

Q. A question that was asked of me and I would like to hear your opinion. I attend a United Methodist Church that preaches the Word and salvation. But it has a few quirk’s that do not set well with me. About 5 years ago our Pastor took on the practice of offering Ashes during the Ash Wednesday service. I asked him about it and also asked where in scripture it says to do this and he told me it was a sign of being a repentant Christian in a round about way and that there where no scriptural references to it. But he did point to the old testament practice of ash and sack cloth when repenting.

I was saved in a non denominational church. And have only been with this Methodist church for about 10 years. So I had never been exposed to this practice before. And I have refused to take the Ashes because I equate this with non believers that do it for show. What do you think of this practice of giving ashes?

A. Ash Wednesday is the first day of lent, the 40 day period that precedes Easter. It’s stated purpose is to draw attention to our sinfulness and prepare us for our annual memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the Bible and was not officially practiced in the Church until about 1000 years after the Lord’s resurrection. Today it’s mostly considered a Catholic tradition, although a few protestant denominations also observe it.

Like Christmas, the whole concept of our Easter celebration is rooted in paganism. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the pagan holidays already being observed were simply retro-fitted with Christian trappings. The 40 days of lent come from early Babylon as the time Semeramis, wife of Nimrod, spent mourning the death of her son Tammuz, who then supposedly came back to life. Easter itself originated with the pagan feast of Ishtar, a fertility rite that was held at the spring Equinox. That’s how rabbits and eggs, both symbols of fertility, became associated with the Lord’s resurrection.

Jesus rose from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits, the Sunday morning after Passover. If we want to memorialize the day of His victory over sin and death, that’s the time to do it. The only memorial He commanded us to observe was the bread and wine representing His body given for us and His blood shed for the remission of sin. Everything else is human tradition, most of which is offensive to Him.

Although many people who follow these traditions are sincere in doing so, having to go around with ashes on your forehead as a sign that you know you’re a sinner is not necessary. The Lord knows the state of our hearts without us having to show Him and it’s nobody else’s business.

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