the three ash wednesday’s i spent living in east africa were all ash-less beginnings of lent. there were church services, and lenten disciplines, but none of them began with the imposition of the ashes.
this was not for lack of desire on my part. as a matter of fact, i lamented this at least once on social media (i looked for the posts, but gave up. you’ll just have to take my word for it.)
it looks like tomorrow will also be an ash-less ash wednesday for me, even though i am now living in the united states. again, i will not lack ashes on my forehead because of lack of desire, but because they are unavailable in a (nearby) methodist church before i need to be on a bus at 9:15 tomorrow morning. i will still be on said bus at noon, in class at the mid-afternoon imposition times (if they exist?) and back on the busy at regular evening times (7).
why is it that we tend to only offer midday and evening services? are methodists allergic to morning prayer or offering the imposition of ashes pre 8:00a.m.?
and does it strike anyone else as odd that we tend to don our foreheads with ashes, an outward and visiable sign of the beginning of our lenten journey at 7:00 p.m., then we head home and wash this once-a-year visible sign of our faith and conviction before anyone has had a chance to see? before we have had a chance to engage in conversation about this stuff on our forehead?
why do we do it? sure, it is important for our private lenten journey–but what of the evangelism component we miss when we receive the ashes in privacy, get into our private cars and return to our private homes? i am not suggesting, necessarily, that you need to stand on a busy street corner letting people look at your forehead, or that the point is so people see that you identify as Christian.
but i am wondering, if we as a body really believe in the power of the gospel of jesus christ, and the time of preperation lent provides us in the Church–why do we not offer this to those who may not know?