There was a large group of people in McDonalds this morning with black smudges on their foreheads, which brought a puzzled look and then a question from the young lady behind the counter. I can only imagine what she may have been thinking before she asked the question of a customer, “What are those marks on your foreheads?”
It was Ash Wednesday and the marks on our foreheads were ashes in the shape of a cross put there in one of several worship services at several Christian congregations. It is a mark to remind us of our mortality and a reminder that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The statement made when the cross was placed on our head was, “Remember that you came from dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.”
Why do we want to walk around with a reminder on our foreheads that we are sinners destined to die? Because it’s true! It’s hard to hear that truth. Religion that does not acknowledge the real human condition is not worth much. Truth still sets us free. When we face the reality about ourselves we take the first step toward personal healing. When we acknowledge the depth of our need we can better appreciate and accept the love of God and others.
Here is a guiding axiom: “When we are humble and hungry great things are possible!” That means a willingness to face the truth about ourselves, acknowledge our need of a savior and have a desire to learn, change, and grow. When we feel arrogant, self-satisfied and righteous we are in a dangerous place.
A cross on the forehead is not enough to make true seekers of truth, humility, and wholeness. But it’s a start!
Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.