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What is Ash Wednesday?

Here are a few ideas that represent the day:

  • A day of repentance for the sins committed on Fat Tuesday – especially for those in New Orleans.
  • A ritual religious holiday where the sign of the cross is placed on the forehead using the ashes from palm fronds from the previous Easter.
  • A day of mourning for our sinful condition – Psalms 51 is often read at religious services.
  • A recognition that from dust we have come and dust we will return.
  • A start of the 40 days of Lent before Resurrection Sunday.
  • Observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman Catholics.
  • It’s not found in Scripture.

I’ve never participated in Ash Wednesday but this is the bottom line:

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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