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February 19, 2019, 2:27 PM

One of my early recollection of ashes comes from the fireplace in our home. A chore assigned to me every once in a while was to clean out the ashes from the fireplace. Our family had enjoyed the warmth of the fire on several occasions, and by Spring, cleaning the ashes was on the list. The fascination for me as a child was to watch the fire from its beginning to its robust warmth and then to a warm glow. Sometimes it was fun to poke at the graying and orange cylinder and watch as it collapsed. Other times we let the gray shell remain till nothing was left inside to burn. At those times a mere touch would case the     cylinder of gray to collapse. It was after a month or two that our infrequently used fireplace would need to be cleaned and wait its use until the next fall/winter came.

Ash Wednesday would come later in life for me. It was always associated with church  traditions different from ours. As my journey of faith brought me into the mainline churches, I discovered liturgical traditions that were more attuned to the Church Year. It was a humbling  reminder of my time on earth. Hauntingly, the ash and words left me feeling as if my life that seemed to be as robust as a log in a fireplace, would eventually burn out, leaving behind the fire and returning to its earthly source.

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” connects one with the earth and with God who breathed life into us. It helps us to think of our purpose on earth and how we live. It can move us away from selfism to live with others before us.

Christian faith lived today is in the margins. We all benefit from a culture that is not    hospitable to aliens, not generous to the poor, reckless with the ecosystem, greedy, mean, and violent in politics that hurt - not help - people. In face of this reality, ashes may well remind us that we are not our own; that in life and in death we belong first and last to our faithful Creator.

Jesus’ life, teachings, and death were an affront to the powers of domination. His sacrificial death calls us to remember, remember, remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. May we use what fire God has given us to bear witness to God working and intervening for the common good in the world. The ashes surely speak to the truth of our   mortality.

An old saying reads, “Only one life, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Even if we find some argument with it, it still speaks a truth that we experience on Ash Wednesday.

Hope to see you on March 6th! 


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