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Earlier this week, noted blogger Edward Fudge* posted a wonderful write-up regarding Ash Wednesday. A number of evangelical Christian groups totally ignore Ash Wednesday, the starting of Lent, and the significance of the season of Lent, but jump right in during Holy Week. With Edward Fudge's permission, I'm extremely pleased to share his blog post in it's entirety.
The Ashes Tell the Truth: Edward Fudge**
This past Wednesday, on the traditional Christian calendar, was Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period (not counting Sundays) of repentance and prayer that leads to the victorious climax on Easter Sunday. True, the New Testament does not mention Ash Wednesday, Lent or even Easter by name (except for a mistranslation in the KJV). Yet one would be hard pressed to object to the traditional themes and details those special days incorporate -- words and actions that are solidly biblical and spiritually strengthening as well, when celebrated with faith resting on Jesus Christ and undergirded by the atonement he has accomplished once for all.
The Episcopal liturgy for Ash Wednesday is typical of others, in which those assembled pray: "Almighty God, You have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen." The minister (or other officiant) then makes with ashes a small cross on each person's forehead while saying: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
The deed and the declarations harmonize, with each other and also with basic biblical truths. Truths that many Christians, bewitched by the death-denying mentality of our thoroughly- secular culture, avoid and even obscure. According to the Bible, death is not our friend but our enemy -- an enemy which Jesus came dying to destroy. Resurrection, not death, is the believer's doorway into immortality. But Easter is about resurrection: the ashes last week are about our mortality that makes resurrection so exceedingly vital, in both senses of the word. Thanks be to God!
* Edward William Fudge (born July 13, 1944) is an American Christian theologian and lawyer, best known for his book "The Fire that Consumes", in which he argues against traditionalist Christian interpretations of Hell. He has been called "one of the foremost scholars on hell" by The Christian Post. He is the subject of the 2012 independent film "Hell and Mr. Fudge".
** Original blog posted at http://edwardfudge.com/gracemails/ash_wednesday.html