The year was 1983 at Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville, Tenn., when my family attended Ash Wednesday services at 6:30 in the morning and received ashes on our foreheads.
Our pastor said the ashes were to remind us of the passion and the humility of the cross, from dust you came and to dust you shall return.
That was a lesson I shall never forget. I worked in a very public place, and my son, Matthew, was a sophomore in high school. All through the day people would look or stare and occasionally someone would ask, “What is that on your face?”
Sharing our faith
As one of few that day with ashes on his forehead, my son came home complaining that he had spent the whole day explaining what the ashes meant.
That night I thanked God for the opportunity–for my son and me—to spend the day sharing our faith and testimony.
Yesterday in Georgia, one pastor I know distributed ashes, prayers and blessings all day in front of his church in the drive-through. Across the street from my Atlanta apartment building, in front of the Marta Station, someone distributed ashes and blessings to people as they rushed to work or school.
If there ever is a day of the year when you can spot a Christian at a glance, it’s Ash Wednesday. That’s the one day when we literally wear our faith on our foreheads.
If there ever is a day of the year when you can spot a Christian at a glance, it’s Ash Wednesday.
Taking it to the streets
I thank God that we are taking our faith out to the streets, out to people who may not have a church home, out to people who may be so rushed that a drive-through blessing is all they have time for.
I thank God for those pastors who have stepped out of their churches and reached out with a prayer, blessings and some ashes to share!
Did you have a chance to share your faith story as you wore ashes on your forehead yesterday? How do you focus on the meaning of Lent?
Patti Austin was president of Women of the ELCA’s executive board from 2014-2017. She lives in Atlanta, Ga., with her husband, Hilton.