Fiddling While Rome Learns
Ash Wednesday at Memorial Lutheran School
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is the season of repentance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving that brings Christians to the foundational feast of the faith: the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, Easter. Ash Wednesday brings with it the unique ceremony of the pastor placing ashen crosses on the foreheads of parishioners while saying, “Remember, O man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday brings the sinful mortality of mankind to the front and center. It also brings the preaching of Christ concerning “treasure in heaven” to the front and center.
“Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
The Church is where the “treasures of heaven” are distributed. Life, forgiveness of sins and salvation are given freely to those who are dead in sin and damned apart from mercy of Christ. Ash Wednesday is somber but joyful because pondering one’s sins is sobering. Yet Christ has come to conquer sin and does conquer it and this brings great joy.
Every year our school gathers as a community with Memorial Lutheran Church for the observance of Ash Wednesday. These observances take place throughout the day.
Pastor Bart Day, former pastor and headmaster here at MLC&S, instituted the “Burning of the Palms” that begins every Ash Wednesday here at Memorial. The school gathers in the parking lot to burn last year’s palms from Palm Sunday and to hear God’s Word concerning repentance, baptism and faith. Readings are read from John 12 (Palm Sunday), Romans 6 (baptism into Christ) and Matthew 25 (the wise and foolish virgins). The palms are burned and then water and oil are mixed into the ashes as the readings mentioned above are read.
Following the Burning of the Palms, our early childhood and lower elementary classes gather in the sanctuary for the praying of the Litany, the Imposition of Ashes and Confession and Absolution. Pastor Paul and Vicar then visit the Infant Care rooms for the distribution of ashes there as well as confession and absolution. At noon the upper elementary and middle school classes join the congregation for Ash Wednesday Divine Service, where again there is the imposition of ashes, confession and absolution, preaching and the Lord’s Supper.
It may seem strange to see babies, toddlers, children and adults walk around with ashen crosses on their foreheads. This visible reminder that the wages of sin is death is significant. All too often we are blissfully ignorant of the fact that mankind deserves to die. Ash Wednesday reminds us. It does so too with the reminder that Christ has already died for the sins of the world and that forgiveness is freely given that by faith we might receive it and live.
Please join us on Ash Wednesday here at Memorial and hear the preaching of Christ crucified for those who are dust and ash but look forward to the resurrection from dust and ash to eternal life.