On our facebook page is a link to a good article about Ash Wednesday. I encourage you to take a look, but I would also like to add a few of my thoughts.
In the 21st century it does seem like a strange custom, putting ashes on a person’s forehead, but it comes with a long history and tradition.
In the ancient Middle East ashes were a sign of mourning, both for a lost loved one grief over ones mistakes or sins. It was an “outward and visible sign” of what was taking place on the inside.
Even in this century many people still use the phrase; “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” at the graveside as the casket is lowered into the grave. It’s a reminder that everyone, at some point, will die and their bodies will go back to the dust from which they were made.
But more importantly, as we approach the season of Lent, these ashes remind us of why there was a manger in Bethlehem. Why this baby grew into a man and lived among His people, and most of all why there needed to be a cross.
Human beings are broken and flawed. Or as Paul says in Romans chapter 3:23 all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There needed to be a cross upon which God, in human flesh Jesus, would die so that our brokenness could be healed and our sins forgiven.
Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday, is a time of reflection and introspection. At its best it is a time in which we allow God’s Holy Spirit to inspect our hearts and our souls.
The ashes remind us of why Jesus came, and why He had to die. Lent, with its introspection and inspection is a time of sorrow yes, but it is also a time of great joy as we remember what this Savior has done for us.
So to answer the question; there is a reason why we get a dirty forehead on Ash Wednesday, and it’s a very good reason.