Repent and believe in the Gospel. That is one of the traditional phrases said during the Ash Wednesday service, as the ashes from the burning of last year’s Palm Sunday palms are placed on each person’s forehead in the sign of the cross. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
The Ash Wednesday Service begins our long journey into the Lenten season. Like the ashes, the season of Lent takes our human struggle and our mortal and spiritual enemies of sin, death and the devil very seriously. We name them and call them what they are, our enemies that we struggle against. To do any less, to say that sin doesn’t matter, that there are not consequences to our actions, that the hurt that we experience and cause is not that big of a deal, makes light of the reality and robs us of any real chance for redemption, because without acknowledgement of our sin there can be no repentance and without repentance there can be no receiving of redemption.
That is why the Ash Wednesday service in the life of the faithful Christian is so important, it is an acknowledgement of our sin and our need, it is a place where God invites us to come and place our need in front of Him and repent of our sin, and in His grace receive His redemption and forgiveness won for us upon the cross.