We come this morning –
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord – open up a window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning. (James Weldon Johnson)
Listen, I’m telling you a secret: all of us won’t die, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; context)
This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “A” is for ashes.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the priest says as he or she scrapes two lines of grit on the forehead. Two lines of soot, of the debris that’s left after the fire is gone. Now, the fire consumes, but it does not annihilate. The fire converts the material fuel into energy and burns with heat and light. When it dies out, the ash remains. The ash is the remnant of the material, the leftover stuff that did not change from matter into energy.
This is the symbol of the beginning of Lent, the season in which we recall all the ways we have fallen short of our callings as human beings, in which we recall why we need Christ in the first place. The two lines of ash make a cross, a device of torture and death that Christ changed into a symbol of hope and life. The keyword here is change.
The fire changes the fuel into energy and leaves the ashes. We take those ashes and make the sign of the cross on our foreheads. In the same way, walking with Christ changes us. We burn with the light of Christ. We burn with the energy that Jesus infuses into our lives. This burning separates all the pieces of us that God can use from the ash of selfishness, pride, and domination. Through the mercy and grace of God, as we burn, we leave behind this ash and we are changed.
Dear God, you provide the spark that gets our fires going. Help me to burn brightly for you and to participate with you in the removing of the ash from my life. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, taking hope in the overarching reality that you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.