Originally broadcast February 23, 2007
Pastor STEVE BUECHLER (Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland): Shrove Tuesday — the name, first of all, comes from an old English word “to shrive,” verb “to shrive,” which means to get rid of or to cast off, and traditionally Christians would, on the day before Ash Wednesday, get rid of all the fat, all the sugar, all of the kinds of things that you weren’t supposed to eat during the Lenten fast. And because they’re easy to make and people like to eat them, a lot of congregations use this opportunity to have a pancake supper for everyone. That’s a big fellowship event.
(to children and congregation members at pancake supper): Tonight we’re going to just make the ashes that we’re going to use tomorrow for Ash Wednesday.
It’s also the day then that, here anyway, we burn the palms from the previous Palm Sunday to make the ashes that we will use for Ash Wednesday.
(to children and congregation members): And we take these palms and we burn them. That kind of ties in last year’s Holy Week service with the beginning of Lent this year.
I explain to them the significance of the ashes. They remind us of human frailty and that our lives are not something that we have in and of ourselves, but they are a gift from God, and they don’t continue forever except by God’s grace. Part of the reason that we use the ashes is that ashes in the Bible represent repentance, a seriousness to live your life in a new way. When we make the ashes and we put the ashes on our foreheads, it’s a sign of wanting to be serious about living in the way God wants us to live.
As the palm ash is there, then they take that out with the spoons and put it through a strainer. It becomes a fine powder. Some people just use the straight ash and usually put the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead. I take olive oil and make kind of a paste out of it and use that as the substance with which I apply the ashes to people.
When I put the ashes on people on Ash Wednesday, in the Lutheran tradition we use the verse out of Genesis:
(to unidentified girl): Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
Lent is kind of a penitential season, meaning that in our worship services things are a little bit more subdued. Lent is, for us, an opportunity to reflect on how we’re living our lives as Christians and to reflect more fully and maybe change some of the things that we’re doing, to live more fully the way we think we should live as Christians.