Ashes and Hearts

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Ashes and hearts.
Hearts and ashes.
The convergence of this day of
Sacred and secular.

As if we needed a reminder that
To dust we will return.
We with our bodies showing signs of age …
We with our society exploding?
Imploding?
Teetering on the edge of
We-don’t-know-what?

What is this day,
Then,
Of hearts and ashes?

Ashes of hearts?
Hearts of ash?

From dust you came,
And you will go back to dust.
And, along the way,
There is Love.
Before, behind, beside, within,
There is Love.

Great Lover of the Universe, may there be love … before, behind, beside, within us. Mark us with your love. Amen.

Ash Wednesday Blessing

frozen bush

Bless this day of ashes,
This space, this pause.

May we be open,
May we be honest,
May we be mindful.

May we be patient,
May we be quiet,
May we be gentle.

Facing fear,
Facing sorrow,
Facing joy,
Facing pain.

This life is yours.
This life is a gift.
We return it to you.

Bless this day of ashes,
This space, this pause.

 
 
Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Ashes to Ashes

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I’ve never been that comfortable
With Ash Wednesday
With Lent
With self-examination and repentance
And being reminded of my mortality

But the one I follow was all about truth-telling
And justice
And righteousness
Rather than being comfortable

I am not that One
But I am made of clay and dust
Human to the core

May the ashes today
Remind me of my createdness
My calling to be who I am
Who I was crafted to be
Who I am becoming
As my heart, my mind, my clay is shaped
Molded by the Creator

I am yours, Loving God
Show me the way

The Ashes …

ashesI’ll never think of the ashes for Ash Wednesday in the same way again — ever since I asked our confirmation class members to assist me in burning some dried-out palm branches in preparation for the Imposition of Ashes.

Our small church doesn’t have a confirmation class every year — not enough kids. And we hadn’t needed any new ashes for a few years — a few ashes go a long way. So I explained to the class that this was perhaps a once-in-a-generation experience — to be the confirmation class that is chosen to burn the palm branches saved up from several years of Palm Sundays.

We started in the classroom discussing the seasons of the Church year. We talked about how the first Sunday of Advent is New Year’s Day for Christians; about how Advent and Lent are both seasons of preparation for the special celebrations of Christmas and Easter. We reviewed the importance of the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, how the ashes remind us that we are mortal — that we are God’s creations.

Then we moved outside to the parking lot and stood in the cold around a little grill filled with dried palm fronds. We each took a long match and, in unison, lit the matches and held them to the palm leaves.

Whoosh! Dried palm leaves went up in flames. All solemnity vanished as clouds of thick smoke penetrated our clothes, hair, shoes, socks … We added more palms to the fire and talked about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday — and camping and marshmallows. (Where were those liturgical marshmallows when we needed them?)

I was struck by the absolute joy that infused this burning of the palms. There was laughter and dancing, joking and prancing. Whatever expectation I had of a somber, quiet ritual was transformed by the smiles and giggles of young people, fully present, enjoying the moment, burning palm leaves in the service of God.

When the palms were all burned, we pulled ourselves together for a closing prayer. Standing in a circle around the grill, we held hands and gave thanks for the presence of the Holy Spirit in that fire and in those holy moments. We asked God’s blessing for each person there, servants of God, and on the ashes that would be signs of God’s love for each person who received them.

The Ash Wednesday ashes are now infused with special meaning. Sure, they are an outward symbol of the Lenten journey of repentance. But they are also infused with holy laughter and blessed with the full-of-life spirits of now-confirmed, young Christians.

When I receive the ashes, I think of Jesus’ words, “Repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15, NRSV). And I believe in that good news with all my heart.

And … if I am ever invited to update the liturgical calendar for the Church, I’ll be adding one Sunday to the calendar — the day when the confirmation class burns the palms for Ash Wednesday. We could call it … Conflagration Sunday. (Sorry … I couldn’t resist a little liturgical geek humor.)


Check out some resources for your Lenten Journey by clicking here.