Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. These are words that are familiar to us from many funerals and memorial services and burials. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (3: 20)
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. From a religious perspective, ashes are a sign of penitence. To be covered with sackcloth and ashes was a sign of the awareness of wrongdoing and the desire to repent and restore relationships with God and neighbor.
Ashes carry many other symbolic meanings. They are the product of destruction. They represent the essence of a thing. They are elemental. They are also used for fertilizer; to stimulate growth.
Lent is a time to return to our essence. To shed, peel off our shells of illusion and denial. It is a time to confront ourselves honestly and to see our sin. Lent is a time to destroy and cast off all that separates us from God, our truest selves, and our neighbors.
Ashes to ashes. This is a season of to consider what must be left behind and destroyed because it is interfering with our relationships to God, ourselves, and the world. It is a season to give something up. What are you giving up for Lent?
But in the book of Genesis, a book of beginnings, we are told, “. . . then the Lord God formed a human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being.” (2:7) From the dust and ashes of our Lenten devotion, God re-creates us, we become new beings, truly alive in God. Do not be afraid of this somber season. Do not be afraid of the self denial. Do not be afraid of the sacrifice. Do not be afraid of the self examination. Do not be afraid of the honesty. From the ashes of repentance, new life springs forth.
Prayer: As this season of Lent begins, may we affirm the desire to grow closer to God and to one another. May our spiritual disciplines result in true growth and maturity. May we face our fears of letting go; giving up power and control and releasing harmful attitudes and behaviors. May we be with Jesus in spirit through his 40 days in the wilderness trusting in Divine love to sustain us and renew us. Amen.