Jabbok Dawn

Tumbling in the Sand

Sidewalk Flowers: Ashes to Ashes

Not my hands … but they looked a bit like this.

Reflections for Lent 2019 – Day 2

My hands are coarse today from the ashes of yesterday. And maybe the cold of being outside for “Ashes to Go” added to the current dryness. It was really cold. When we arrived at the train station, it was about 20 degrees and the temperature proceeded to drop throughout the two hours. Even the oil in the ash started to freeze.

It was great, though. I know some people are not big fans of the “Ashes to Go” movement — and, I agree, it seems odd as a statement of welcome, invitation, inclusion and a sign of “good news” to go around putting ashes on people’s foreheads and telling them that they are going to die. They don’t even get the rest of the story that they would get in worship. They really don’t get much “good news.”

But, the thing is, for those who receive the ashes … they kind of already know about the good news and for them they really get the hope of what those ashes mean. And every year, at least someone tears up with joy and gratitude at receiving ashes. At being included in the walk toward Easter even though they can’t get to a service somewhere. So, I keep at it. Because it is deeply good even if it be for only one person (as my partner in crime yesterday, Kyle Martindale, the new Priest at St. Stephen’s here in Pearl River, said when he experienced one such moment, “That ‘yes’ was worth a hundred ‘No thank-yous.'”

Sometimes, though, as the person giving the ashes (especially in the worship services that followed the morning ashes, especially with people I know and are part of the Good Shepherd community), this isn’t exactly something I experience as joy and gratitude. More like longing, love, and sorrow. Because I get to know everyone. And I love them. And I find myself as I trace ashes and say “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” whispering in my mind, “But, please, not yet.”

At the late service yesterday, I found myself completely caught up in those feelings as tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I traced one forehead after another. I experienced a “vision”* of each member as they walked away joining with all the saints who had been dancing dust before them, walking in joy and radiance. It was a beautiful but heart breaking moment. But as the service proceeded and we got to communion, it also became faith-giving. It reminded me how each of these lives that I marked with a cross were held in a love greater than death. And that, I too, wouldn’t be forgotten.

The hymn during communion was balm. While not so familiar to the congregation, it was a perfect choice for Ash Wednesday and for that moment. We sang “We Who Once Were Dead.” I leave you with the lyrics (and a link to a brief introduction to the tune).

We who once were dead
now live, fully knowing
Jesus as our head.
Life is overflowing
when he breaks the bread.

We were lost in night,
but you sought and found us.
Give us strength to fight;
death is all around us.
Jesus, be our light.

He became our bread;
Jesus died to save us.
On him we are fed,
eating what he gave us,
rising from the dead

Let us share the pain
you endured in dying;
we shall then remain
living; death defying,
we shall rise again.

Jesus, you were dead,
but you rose and, living,
made yourself our bread,
in your goodness giving
life though we were dead.

This is your design;
in this meal we meet you.
Be our bread and wine,
Jesus, we entreat you.
This shall be our sign.

– We who Once Were Dead, Text: Muus Jacobse, 1909-1972; tr. composite
Text © 1967 Gooi en Sticht, BV, Baarn, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.

* I’m still trying to figure out to explain what this is. Vision is probably not quite the right word. Or maybe it is. I imagine if I came from a different faith tradition, I would more fully embrace that label of it … but I’m a skeptical Lutheran. Maybe you could call it a faithful daydream? A moment of imagination filling in the holy? Trust me, I was fully present in reality as I reflected on something beyond reality whatever this was.

2 comments on “Sidewalk Flowers: Ashes to Ashes

  1. Laurie
    March 7, 2019

    Thank you for doing this. Your writing makes me feel like you’re speaking right to me.


    • jabbokdawn
      March 7, 2019

      Thank you for suggesting it. It’s definitely a thing I was missing! A very good thing to wrestle with *doing* during Lent, not just giving up something.


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This entry was posted on March 7, 2019 by in Uncategorized.

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