Yesterday I wrote about where the ashes from Ash Wednesday come from: they’re the burned remains of the palm branches used on Palm Sunday the year before.
Ashes are the product of destruction and death and demise.
Ashes are ugly and useless.
Ashes smear and stain.
Ashes are dark and dingy.
Ashes scatter and blow away in the wind.
Ashes are weak and weary.
Every year we have Ash Wednesday, and perform what’s called the “Imposition of Ashes.”
And we bow our heads and allow someone to place the ashes on our bodies.
Not in an arbitrary way, but in the shape of a cross.
And this is where the magic, the mystery, the mercy happens.
The cross makes all the difference.
Because in 40 days, the ashes come back to life.
The ashes turn back into palm branches which we wave to welcome our coming Messiah.
The ashes transform from death to eternally resurrected life.
The ashes turn from cursed char to white-than-snow redemption.
During Lent, we wait in the darkness.
We sit in the ashes.
We identify as people of the ash-traced cross on our foreheads.
During Lent, we give into grief.
We repeat prayers of repentance.
We sit in solemn silence.
We do it because of hope. We do it because of healing. We do it because we believe that our savior, our redeemer, our redemption is coming.
We do it because we have faith in the Love that loves to love us.
We do it because we believe in a Creator who makes beauty out of these same ashes.
We do it because, inspite of the death and demise and despair we experience in our world, we believe that by God’s merciful grace, just like Jesus, we too shall rise.