Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis

Feast Days & Commerations

The Meaning Of The Ashes On Ash Wednesday

What is the significance of Ash Wednesday and ashes on the forehead? Q: Would you please explain the significance of Ash Wednesday. I’ve seen some people in the past with black ash crosses on their foreheads. A: Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, a commentary on Lutheran Worship, one of our Synod’s hymnals, says this about ashes on Ash Wednesday: “Other customs may be used, particularly the imposition of ashes on those who wish it. This ancient act is a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day. Ashes can symbolize dust-to-dustness and remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing and purifying. If they are applied during an act of kneeling, the very posture of defeat and submission expresses humility before God.” The use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a more recent custom among most LCMS congregations, although some have done it for decades. The ashes are usually derived from the burned palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Experience will show, however, that in obtaining ashes this way, it doesn’t take many ashes to “ash” a whole congregation. Like sin, they are very dirty and go a long way. One palm leaf will produce enough ashes for several years. Usually the pastor takes the ashes on the end of his thumb and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each worshiper, saying these words: “Remember: you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This follows most effectively prior (or as

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Christ The King Sunday

It is not unnatural at this time to stop to ponder our own lives, the time we have here on this earth and the inevitableness of our death. As our time grows to a close, even for those that statistically see death as far off, we ask ourselves just where we stand in relationship to the Almighty. Have we spent the past year walking in Christ’s path? Have we moved closer to Him or is He more distant?

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Fourth Sunday in Lent – Mothering Sunday

In Europe during the 1500’s it became popular for people to return to the main church or cathedral in the community of their youth every year on the fourth Sunday in lent. These people were said to be returning to their mother church or to be going “a-mothering.” Over the years, Mothering Sunday became a day to allow children and young people that were working as domestic servants or employees to have the day off. This was so they could return home to be with their family as they returned to their home. Often, this was the only time of the year they were allowed off and for many, the only time they saw their family. Children would pick wild flowers along the way to present to their mothers or to place in the church in their mother’s honor. Over time, this became a time to honor mothers with small gifts and tokens of affection. Gradually this became more of a secular celebration than a religious one. By the twentieth century, its popularity had waned and was no longer observed in Europe other than Great Britain and Ireland. World War ll though, spurred a revival as American servicemen brought their traditions of Mother’s Day and they were merged with the traditions of British and Irish soldiers. After the war British merchants recognized the opportunities that lay in an American type Mother’s Day celebration and the day was promoted heavily. Today, the people of Ireland and the UK celebrate a secular

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Feb 2 – The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord

Forty days after Christmas we celebrate Groundhog’s Day. Why is this the day for the Groundhog to see his shadow? Why indeed. Let’s go back to the Mosaic law in the twelfth chapter of Leviticus regarding a woman who gives birth to a son. The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. “When the days of her purification are over, she is to bring to the priest a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her. “But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” So forty days after the birth of Jesus (Christmas Day), Mary goes to the temple to bathe in the Mikva to purify herself. At the same time, she and Joseph take Baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated,

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Feast of Saint Joseph

The Christian Church sets aside March 19th as the annual Feast Day of St. Joseph, the “Guardian” of Jesus.  “Guardian,” maybe . . . but he was so much more than that twenty first-century term implies! What do we know about Joseph?  According to Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph, “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ,” (Matt. 1:16) is the direct descendant of Abraham and David, through whose line would come the promised Messiah.  Matthew notes: ”Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.” (Matt 1:17) If for no other reason than being in this royal line, Joseph would be highly respected. However, we should also take note of the character of this man: when presented with the “damaged goods” of a pregnant fiancée, Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, but “had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matt 1:19)  When an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, Joseph listened and obeyed God, kept Mary as his wife, and raised Jesus as his own. Through our Western, twenty first-century eyes, we miss an important element in this narrative: it was Joseph who publicly “gave him the name Jesus.” (Matt 1:25)  In the culture of Joseph’s time, this was crucial.  The man who named the child acknowledged the child to be his, and accepted responsibility for the child.  By his

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