This evening my beautiful wife and I observed Ash Wednesday together in our living room. Our schedules were such that it was impossible for us to attend a service together and we wanted to experience this as a couple. So, the next best thing for us to do was for us to have our own service. We used the Book of Common Prayer as a guide and went from there.
Where we observed Ash Wednesday and that we, one ordained minister and one lay person, administered the ashes on each other is not what is odd. The true oddity lies in the fact that we were each raised as Southern Baptists and currently attend a church in the tradition of the Radical Reformation (though not as radical as the Mennonite churches).
If you knew us, this wouldn't surprise you. We have been leaning toward liturgy for a while. But so far we have only whetted our appetites with the church-calendar days that have not been celebrated in our churches, namely, all of them except Christmas and Easter.
When we tell our friends and families, who attend churches like ours, that we seek to follow the church calendar, they always want to know why. Our answer is always that we want to participate with the Church at large in observing these days, especially the days leading up to Easter.
Lent serves as a reminder for us of our mortality and it causes us to remember to live in solidarity with Christ's sacrifice and sufferings. Certainly the things we sacrifice (chocolate and soft drinks) are not even close to the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf, but our small sacrifices remind us that we are to be turned toward Jerusalem (and thus the cross) in the same way that Jesus' face was (Luke 9:51).
As a part of the Radical Reformation, we have been taught to focus on the resurrection. This is great but it implicitly means that we haven't focused enough of our time and energies on the cross. We want to be reminded that we have died with Christ and are called to continue to die to ourselves and live for him.
As we rubbed ashes on one another's foreheads and recited the famous words of Ash Wednesday ("Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." BCP, 266), we were reminded of Christ's death, of our deaths, and of our callings from God. We were reminded to whom we belong and to whom we owe or existences.
We hope that this season of Lent will remind us of our desperate need for God, his love, and his Spirit. We also hope that during this time we will begin to live by the rhythm of God's grace.