The very first time I offered an Ash Wednesday service in a Church of Scotland, I waited in fear and trepidation for cries of horror or complaints or, at the very least, a rejection of the offer. But folk came. Perhaps out of curiosity or for the novelty factor but they came and they had ashes placed on their forehead during worship. And, in the years since, I have continued to conduct Ash Wednesday worship. It is one of the most moving services of the year: The opportunity to share in that Lenten ritual with folk with whom I have journeyed the rest of the year, through joy and sorrow, through hardship and triumph, in the intimacy of a simple act, is fellowship and community bound up in the sacred. And the thought of Christians throughout the world witnessing to their faith on Ash Wednesday, for me, brings a poignancy that cannot be matched on Easter Sunday with our celebrations of the resurrection.
Ash Wednesday feels much more like where its at for people - in the nitty gritty nub of living. Remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return but ALSO turning from sin and living out the gospel. Both sides of that Ash Wednesday coin are at the crux of our faith. God gets down and dirty with people and spreads love - that IS good news. News we proclaim whether in the grey of ashes or the gold of resurrection.