-Rev Melissa Fain-
18 Weeds and thistles will grow for you, even as you eat the field’s plants; 19 by the sweat of your face you will eat bread— until you return to the fertile land, since from it you were taken; you are soil, to the soil you will return.”
Genesis 3:18-19 CEB
It was Ash Wednesday many years ago, and I rather naively asked the Elder, "What are those ashes made of?"
"The palm fronds of last year's Palm Sunday. They're dried out, and burned to ash for Ash Wednesday."
What was mere curiosity turned to horror. I loved Palm Sunday! As I kid, I enjoyed marching into the Sanctuary (ahead of the the choir, by the way!) Now I was staring at the remains of that wonderful experience. Only dust. Burned to nothingness. God was in that event! I felt the Spirit as I sang "Hallelujah!" I knew God's presence was real. Now it felt dismissed and discarded.
Only, I saw it wrong. The ash is a reminder to let go of what God was, to allow us to see how God could be. Don't mistake this as something easy. This isn't some moment of celebration, or understood joy. This is a lament; a funeral dirge. What was, can no longer be. It's not anything that can be brought back. Holding on to those remains will not bring them back. It will only keep what is to come from arriving. So Ash Wednesday we mourn and say good bye. God exists in those moments. God is ash.
Pray with me:
Dear Lord, help me reflect as I mourn. As I fondly remember what once was, let me accept the ash so I may let go. Amen.