Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Traditionally we come forward in our worship and receive the sign of the cross from the worship leaders as they remind us “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
The ceremony is called the “Imposition of Ashes.” The word simply means the application or ‘imposing of” the ashes. But the word also has another meaning, doesn’t it. When something gets in our way, and it causes us to change our agenda, we say “it’s such an imposition.” A bother. A burden.
But maybe that’s how we should think on the ashes as well. A bother. A burden.
The ashes, you see, remind us of our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness.
So why do we want to carry the burden around?
Perhaps to remember that the burden has been carried for us once and for all by our Savior Christ Jesus. His life was imposed with our sins, and he suffered and died that we wouldn’t have to carry them around with us any more. The ashes – our sin – our guilt bring us back to reality when we start living like every thing is just ‘hunky-dory.’ We’re not OK (in ourselves) but Christ has made us OK. Though His forgiveness is complete, we are still sinners, for every breath we take is a part of our mortal life.
Yes, the ashes are an imposition – for they remind us of a self that we don’t like to think about.
So Ash Wednesday, when your get back from worship and get cleaned up for a peaceful night’s sleep, look in the mirror one last time and see the black smudge on your forehead. It is the sign of God calling us once again to repentance so that we may joyfully celebrate the greatest victory of all – our victory over Satan, sin and death on Easter!
Let the ashes be an imposition in your life – a moment to let you remember.