Posted on February 09, 2016
Ash Wednesday is not something I grew up with at First Baptist Church of Richardson, TX. It isn’t something that I think many lifelong Baptists grew up with, no matter if your life has been relatively short like mine, or if you’re a little further along the journey than I am. As such, I find it helpful to remember why Ash Wednesday was celebrated by our Christian ancestors, and see if it can fit in our Baptist understanding of faith.
Ash Wednesday was originally celebrated as a mirror for the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness (some of our Bibles say desert, a translation that I’m okay with as well). As such, it was a time of fasting for six days a week, then feasting at the weekly get-together of the family of faith, a day that symbolized the commemoration of the resurrection. This 40 days is the period we now call Lent, a time that is 40 days of Mondays through Saturdays, not counting Sundays.
It is referred to as Ash Wednesday as a reminder that we were created out of dust, and to dust we will return (see Genesis 3:19, Genesis 18:27, Job 30:19, and Ecclesiastes 3:20 for where we find this idea in the Bible). Over Christian history, although not necessarily Baptist history, ashes have been the previous year’s palm branches, placed in the mark of a cross on the forehead or hand. This is done by people of all kinds of callings, as Christian history has not distinguished between the clergy and the laity, something that reminds this Baptist about the priesthood of all believers. In addition, the ashes are oftentimes worn all day as a way to publicly profess faith, while also practicing religious freedom to wear them wherever one goes, lives, or works.
In short, this is a day that we Baptists can adopt into our understanding, even if we didn’t grow up with it. We accept that we were all born, and as far as we know, we all have an expiration date. We appreciate that we can practice our individual priesthood to spread the ashes. We acknowledge publicly our professions of faith, potentially using this as an evangelical tool to begin conversations on faith with our friends and coworkers. And we allocate our time and our energy to fasting as Jesus did, for a time and a purpose.
Will you join us?