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Sunday’s Palms are Wednesday’s Ashes

Trinity Saints! You may remember that on Palm Sunday of last year (2017) our choir processed in with the children waving fresh, beautiful palm fronds marking the triumphal entry of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem. After the service, I gathered up all the fronds and saved them. This morning, I burned them in order to have ash for this year’s Ash Wednesday service which will be held at 6:30 p.m. in our beautiful sanctuary. During the service, Rev. Dr. Jim Terry and I will use the ashes to make the sign of the cross on your forehead reminding you to repent and believe the good news! The ashes also symbolize the biblical truth that from the earth we were taken, and to the earth we shall return.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.

Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: our sinfulness before God and our human mortality. The service focuses on both themes, helping us to realize that both have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. Historically, ashes signified purification and sorrow for sins.

It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday service to burn to produce ashes for this service. The ash cross on the forehead is an outward sign of our sorrow and repentance for sins.

— Adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship