Ashes and the Dump Heap

When one thinks of ashes, fire comes to mind.  Ashes after all are a product of fire and what’s left over from something that was burned.  Ashes and the “dump heap” seem to go together, because both are symbolic of a dead end and the “final straw.”

On Ash Wednesday on may indeed think of ashes and of a “dead end” because as the ashes are placed on the worshipers forehead these words are spoken: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  There is in that sober and solemn phrase the reminder, that at least humanly speaking we will all end up as dust and in the “dump heap” know as a cemetery.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season.  Lent is a forty day period set aside by the Church for Christians to use as a period of preparation for the Pascal Feast (Easter).  If the forty days are for preparation, then that indicates there must be something that might get in the way of a joyful celebration.  And there is and that’s what Ash Wednesday and Lent is all about.

Sin is the word comes to the forefront of this season.  Sin is what’s wrong with the human race and the world.  Sin is at the heart of all of our problems.  And sin robs the human race of much of the joy God desires for it to experience.  So on Ash Wednesday and during Lent we do talk about sin a lot.

As the ashes are applied on the forehead of a worshiper during the Ash Wednesday service, the words; “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” are spoken.   As ashes are the final product, so dust is the final product of our lives.  Because of sin, what once was created to live forever and perfect in every way, is now fixed with many short comings and the final results will be death and dust.

However, those ashes are applied in a very special manner – in the form of a cross.  In the application of ashes in that form, is the powerful message of the cross.  On the cross Jesus paid the price and bought us.  He rose back to life on Easter morning and conquered death and the grave.  His promise is simple; ‘Because I live you shall live also.”  With that promise comes the message that while my body will indeed die and become ashes and go the the “dump heap” know as the cemetery, my soul lives on and goes to be with Jesus in heaven.  And some day all that dust will return to life and body and soul united will see Jesus face to face.

Lent then is the reminder of what we would be without the cross.  It is the reminder that it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross.  And it is the reminder that life is more – much more than here and now – it has a future paid for by the blood of Jesus and celebrated during the great Pascal Feast.

Have a good Lent and join us Ash Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in preparing for the Easter celebration.


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