Pastor Dave Lillie shares his thoughts about the tradition of Ash Wednesday in this 3-part series….

In the first two parts of this meditation / column, I gave a brief history of the Day of Ashes, which we call Ash Wednesday, and suggested reclaiming an ancient meaning for the ritual of marking ourselves with ashes.

For many years our Ash Wednesday ritual has included marking with ashes, and anointing with oil. In this final section, I will suggest adopting an ancient meaning for anointing – one that can transform our lives and our world.

In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was something that was done in a relatively few cases. In many churches we have focused on the use of oil as a symbolic gift to enhance healing. But, there is another ancient use for oil as an anointing ingredient.

Oil that had been blessed by God, was used use to designate something as holy – when Moses was instructed to begin building a place for God to be worshiped, he was instructed by God to anoint all of the pieces of the tent and all of the vessels that would be used in worship rituals. However, I suggest reclaiming the practice of anointing the head of someone who was being identified and given a special responsibility to lead God’s people. Most often we see it when a king was anointed – Saul, David, and Solomon come immediately to mind. To be anointed meant that the recipient recognized God’s calling and instructions for their life.

This Ash Wednesday, we offered the ritual of anointing and asked that everyone receiving it treat it as being selected by God to love others unconditionally, and to embrace our opportunities to share our faith and by doing so, lead them to Christ.

God has blessed us so richly, and extends love to us without reservation or qualification. By reclaiming these two ancient practices – with a personal twist, I believe the Day of Ashes can become a positive and uplifting part of all of our spiritual lives.

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