On Ash Wednesday some Lutheran pastors refused to offer the imposition of ashes at their churches. That way, if you as a parishioner find this venerable tradition beneficial and an aid to your faith and piety, you didn’t even have the option of receiving ashes. You may even have been rebuked from the pulpit for your desire to make use of such outward marks, symbols, and gestures. You were in effect told, “This is a worthless tradition.” If you are a member of one of these churches, you were not free to receive the ashes. You were constrained one way. The pastor’s freedom to not observe a “‘may’-rubric” was placed above your freedom to participate in a tradition with the rest of your Lutheran and Western catholic brethren.
Some pastors set aside their idiosyncrasies and offered the imposition of ashes. That way, if you find this venerable tradition beneficial and an aid to your faith and piety, you had the option of going forward to receive the ashes. If you’re a member of one of these churches, you were free to receive the ashes, and you were free to not receive them. No one constrained you either way. If the pastor disapproved of this tradition, his disapproval wasn’t used to passive-aggressively club your conscience for choosing to participate in it.
So, remind me— who are the legalists here?