Beginning with Ashes
In the Christian calendar, the season we call Lent begins with Ashes.
This Wednesday, throughout the world many Christians will hear the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" as they are marked with the sign of the cross on their forehead with ashes (even in the midst of a pandemic, this tradition will continue in creative ways). These ashes serve as a reminder of human frailty and brokenness, of the many reasons we have for lament and the ways in which we have failed one another, of the weight of our grief and the depth of our sorrow. These ashes mark not only our bodies but also the beginning of a 40-day journey called Lent. For those who make this journey, it will take us into the complexity of what it means to be human, the struggle of life itself, the challenge of faith, and the presence of God throughout it all.
After a year of immeasurable loss, physical distance from those we love, fear of a virus we cannot see, and anxiety over what might be next, these ashes and this journey may be more poignant than ever.
I know I need these ashes.
I need these 40 days.
I need to remember that promise that the God of passionate presence is with me here and now in the midst of this journey.
I need to be reminded that I am dust, and to dust I shall return.
I need to hear once again that in life and in death and in life beyond death, I belong to God.
Friend, you are the beloved, and nothing can ever change that.
And it all begins with ashes.