Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I love the rite of the imposition of ashes, when the pastor marks our foreheads with the sign of the cross made in ashes, with the words “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We need to remember that fact.
But what I want to post for the occasion is a classic piece by Rev. William Cwirla from a few years ago, on “Why We Don’t Do Ashes on Ash Wednesday.” It’s not what you might expect. It’s a different kind of remembrance of death, and a reflection on the pastor’s vocation. He even goes deeper into the symbolism in a way that will help those who do “do ashes on Ash Wednesday.”
UPDATE: Don’t get me wrong. Most of us Lutherans do impose ashes. See this rejoinder to Rev. Cwirla’s piece from Rev. David Petersen, via Trent David.