Once again, the ashes will be pressed to our foreheads as we hear that ancient of curses spoken, “remember you are from dust and to dust you shall return.” With that dusty word we are brought face to face with the reality of our own sin and death. We’re under a curse. There’s no more denying it. There’s no getting round it. Even if we avoid the imposition of ashes, we still go to ashes. As the old nursery rhyme puts it, “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Yet, that word of ashes is not the final or ultimate word God speaks to us. Rather, it’s the news that tells us of the One who enters down into our death for us to raise us from the ashes and gives us life eternal from heaven. That’s the story that we gather and slow down to hear. That’s what lent is good for.
Lent is not about giving up coffee or chocolate. It’s not about working up our feelings of guilt and shame. But it’s for hearing of the Christ who will not abandon or forsake us to ashes. We follow his story from death to life. And with that word, he comes to catch us up in his story and raise us with him.
It’s true, we do go to ashes. “But ashes are, for us, only the next to-last chapter. Death will kneel before resurrection. Our dust and ashes will, by the word of Christ, become glorious resurrected bodies” (Chad Bird, “In the Shadow of the Cross: Devotions for Lent). In Christ Jesus, the old nursery rhyme is turned on its head, “bodies, bodies, we all rise up.”
So, come and hear and get caught up in the story.
Pastor Michael Hanson