Parish Newsletter: Ash Wednesday, by Pastor Karl Weber

This is a newsletter article written by Pastor Karl Weber, author of our posts on Reliability of Scripture, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If you have written an article for your parish newsletter that you think might be useful to a wider audience, please submit it to us.

 

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

On February 22nd, we have in the Church Calendar, Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of a holy day of fasting and contrition for our sins as we enter the penitential season of Lent. The season of Lent consists of forty days not counting Sundays as we identity with the church of old as she wandered in the wilderness forty years. God decreed they would wander forty years until that unbelieving generation that refused to believe Caleb and Joshua had died in the sands (Num 14:34; 1 Cor 10:4).

What we might not know is that Ash Wednesday is a buffer against “…irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge, …’” (1 Tim 6:20). One example of false knowledge is the theory of Darwinian Evolution. As a matter of fact, if evolutionary thought is consistently followed it is diametrically opposed to Christianity. This little exercise will show this reality.

Darwinian Evolution teaches the Bible is not a science book and therefore the Scriptures are not to be trusted. Now, it certainly is true that the Bible is not a science book; that is why it is not re-written every two or three years. That being said, where the Holy Spirit speaks He speaks truthfully and correctly in all He says. Evolutionists specifically say Genesis, chapters one through eleven are to be called, “pre-history,” and as such are not accurate and nor are they faithful records of history. So, if that be the case, according to Evolutionary theory,

  • Adam and Eve were not historical people, therefore,
  • Satan is not a real person, which means,
  • There was not temptation, which leads to the logically belief that,
  • There was no sin, which means,
  • Death was not the result of sin, which then means,
  • We have no need of a Savior to free us from death, diametrically opposed to what the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul, “… the wages of sin is death…” Rom 6:23.

Darwinian Evolution teaches that death is a good thing and the catalyst for advancement of life, human or otherwise. Nothing could be further from the truth and nothing could be more opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than Darwinian Evolution; no matter what form it takes. This is an example of what is “falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20) for it leads us away from our need for Jesus and His life-giving blood shed on Calvary. Jesus came to defeat death through His death on the cross which Evolution wrongly says is necessary for the advancement of life. One can’t have it both ways.

Enter Ash Wednesday, an antidote to Evolution and its deception. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are from the burned Palm branches of the previous year. Here at St. Paul’s / John’s we obtain ours from CPH.

The ashes smeared on the foreheads of the faithful in the form of a cross signify two things. First, these ashes signify our enemy death. When the pastor smears them upon your forehead he says, “Remember thou are dust, and to dust thou shall return” (Gen 3:19). The dust of death is not the advancement of the human race through the survival of the fittest. The dust of death is the result of our first parent’s departure from Christ and our inherited depravity (Rom 5:12). “In Adam we have all been one, One huge rebellious man; We all have fled that evening voice That sought us as we ran” (LSB # 569:1, In Adam We Have All Been One).

Secondly, the ashes are made in the sign of a cross. The righteous were spared in Ezekiel when they received the “mark,” upon their foreheads. This “mark,” is the last letter of the ancient Hebrew alphabet called “tau.” In the ancient script it was made either in the form of a plus sign “+” , or, in the form or a multiplication sign, an “x”. (See TLSB, p. 1321, study note: Ez 9:4)

The writer to Apocalypse carries this imagery in the third verse of the seventh chapter. And in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism the candidate, prior to the thrice-application of water is marked with the sign of the Holy Cross both upon the forehead and the heart (LSB, p. 268) to signify that this one belongs to Christ. Luther carries this imagery through encouraging the faithful to make the sign of the cross in Morning and Evening Prayer (LSB, p. 327).

In Christ’s death, death has been defeated through His shed blood on Mt. Calvary. Reed Lessing wrote1:

To save people in pain and facing death, God comes in the person of his Servant to suffer, die, and rise again (52:13-53:12). “By his wound we are healed” (53:5). The early church father Theodoret of Cyrus put it this way: “This is a new and strange way of healing: the physician underwent the operation, but the sickly patient obtained the healing.”2

Ash Wednesday is a powerful antidote to what is falsely called knowledge, i.e., Darwinian Evolution. In addition to showing that death came from sin, Ash Wednesday also proclaims loud and clear that our survival is not of the fittest. Our survival has to do with the Fittest having mercy upon us as He carried His cross in our place to Judgment Hall.

There will be a new day of a new heaven and a new earth. It will be seen when the Bride of Christ comes down out of heaven beautifully adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2) for in Baptism her Husband presented her to Himself in splendor, without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Eph 5:27). The old order of things will be no longer. Christ’s victory over death will be seen for what gloriously is all false ideas of knowledge will be exposed for what they are.

So rejoice this season of Lent and specifically on Ash Wednesday. In our sin and decay our God does not abandon us. He cares for us, He takes our illness, our death upon Himself, and He suffers the tortures of the dammed in hell for us, for He is Emmanuel, God with us.

– Pastor Weber

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