The Rev. Janice C. Ford
The Church of the Reconciliation, Webster, MA
By January 20th I’d already received the ashes I’d ordered for Ash Wednesday. It hadn’t even been a month since Christmas. I had to look at the calendar to confirm what I already knew to be true: Lent begins today, February 22nd. Those ashes have been staring at me from my desk for three weeks. Every now and then I’d pick up the tiny plastic package stamped “100,” indicating that’s how many people could be marked with them. Humph! I wondered how the “ash company” figures that out. The package certainly didn’t look big enough. Do they line up 100 people and have someone use the ashes to mark the cross on their foreheads, and see how far they go? Funny the things you wonder about when you’re staring at ashes.
The beginning of Lent notwithstanding, it occurs to me that we are all metaphorically staring at ashes. Ashes represent the end of something. The flame has died, and all that is left are the ashes. Lent begins with the imposition of ashes so that we can be reminded of our mortality. It’s sort of God’s way of saying to us, “Don’t get too comfortable in that body. It won’t last forever.”
What does last forever, of course, is the next life we will have—the life that comes as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Without those two events, we would remain in the ashes for eternity.
Though we live in the hope of Jesus’ promise of eternal life, we are likely to experience times in our lives that have nothing to do with our physical death, yet we still feel we are living in the ashes. Those things that challenge us such as financial concerns, relationship crises, addictions, stressors at work, etc. can make us feel that we are burning out of control, and that soon all that will remain are the ashes of our lives.
The good news (and remember, there is always Good News) is that God can help us navigate through those difficulties, too. Turning all those concerns over to God, and sincerely asking that God’s will be done, can help us to rise up through those ashes like a phoenix. In doing so, we discover that, no matter the outcome, we are able to live in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual peace.
As many of us come together today for the imposition of ashes, let’s think not only about our mortal death, but our living as well, and consider how we might ask Jesus to keep us out of the ashes even as he stirs the flame in our hearts.
- Wednesday, 22 February 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion