Ashes to Ashes

It's the first day of Lent. Growing up it was mainly just Holy Week that had significance in our church. I don't remember ashes at all, at least. Some churches shy away from holy days like Ash Wednesday as if the liturgical calendar was something dangerous. And maybe it is. Maybe celebrating some of these days draws us into the life of Christ a little too much. Maybe identifying with Christ too much can change our earthly ways. And that can be dangerous.

Anyway, I'm discovering a lot as I journey into new experiences on the journey. Tonight we buried our alleluias. Most churches I've been in haven't even used the word "alleluia" much. But it is a joyful word; a celebratory word (it means "Praise God"). So, during the somber journey of Lent, we bury the word (tonight we placed ribbons with the word "alleluia" on them into a chest that will return on Easter morning when we say the word in worship again).

Last night the palm leaves from last year's Palm Sunday were burned. Tonight we took those ashes on our thumb and made a cross on the forehead of the person sitting next to us. The ashes remind us that life is short (Genesis 3:19); they also symbolize our repentance before God (Daniel 9:3). There are few greater reminders of one's mortality than having your young son place ashes on your forehead while saying, "Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. You are God's loved child." And so the Lenten journey begins...

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