Ash Wednesday is the official start of the Lenten season in the Christian calendar. So, what is Ash Wednesday all about?  Like in medieval times when people wore sackcloth (burlap) to discomfort themselves in recognition of their sin, the ash mark is a call to repentance and prepa-ration in the season leading up to Easter, which will be on April 4this year for Christians around the world.

The pastor says, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It focuses on the fact that life here on earth is not permanent. We must prepare for death. The ashes represent a deeper conversion to the Lord.

According to Wikipedia, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Chris-tianity. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter and can fall as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. Ash Wednesday is observed by most Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Cath-olics.

In the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the de-sert, where he endured temptation by Satan.

Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ's resurrection.  That is why we worship on Sunday rather than Saturday which is in fact the Sabbath recognized by the Jewish and Seventh Day Adventists folks.  Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (six days) for six weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (four days) in the first week, thus making up the number of 40 days.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches of the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants.

Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away cry-ing" (2 Samuel 13:19). The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. In Job 42:3–6, Job says to God, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recount-ed pleading to God: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independ-ence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes."

This year, the season of Lent begins on February 17th and leads up to Easter on April 4th.  We would love to have you come and worship with us during this Lenten season where we focus on our sinful selves, looking forward to that sin forever taken away by Jesus on a cross, and then our guarantee of eternal life through faith in Jesus who rose from the dead on Easter morning.

Please join us each Sunday to hear more of God’s Word and how it points to a promise of eternal life to all who believe.  Worship is at 9:30 am every week. All are welcome so please come as you are.  New Hope Lutheran Church is located at 22200 Foresthill Dr., Foresthill, CA 95631.  Phone - 530-367-3650.  God bless - Pastor Chris DelCol.

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