Ash Wednesday in a Baptist Church?

Eric Costanzo

This week we will be offering evangelical Ash Wednesday services here at South Tulsa. Christians from all over the world will be observing the beginning of the Lenten season with a time of deep reflection and repentance with anticipation of our celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Many other evangelical and Baptist Churches here in Tulsa and around the world will be observing this day alongside us.

How is an evangelical observance of Ash Wednesday different than a Roman Catholic, Anglican, or even mainline Protestant observance? We do not see this as ritual, but rather relational. Our services will use only Scripture as our liturgy, accompanied by hymns and reflection. The applying of ashes to the forehead (from palm branches used the previous Palm Sunday) is a traditional part of the service to “mark” the beginning of a season of fasting and reflection on Christ’s death. The marking of ashes is completely optional, and anyone is welcome to simply come and participate in the service.

Ashes, along with sackcloth, are the most common sign of repentance throughout Scripture. We think of Job, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the people of Nineveh (Jonah) with such symbols. The 40 days of Lent, usually accompanied with a fast of some kind, represent Jesus’ fasting and temptation by Satan during his 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4).

It’s good to be reminded that the Church existed for a millennium and a half before the Protestant Reformation. Early Christians had many meaningful forms of worship that are worth remembering and, at times, practicing. There are many parts of the Church’s historical traditions that have been neglected because of human-made divisions.

Rather than reflecting on Christ’s death and resurrection for a day or even a week, Ash Wednesday and Lent give us a structure and a discipline to reflect intentionally for 40 days. How amazing is that?

I hope you will join us for one of the services. If you cannot, make a note to pray for and with us during one of those times, as we have opened these services to our entire community.

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