Out of the Ashes
“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust… in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead.”
In committing a body for burial and a soul to God, I have spoken those words in cemeteries and during funerals. Death and life bookend that statement and remind us that it’s only those who pass through death that are able to experience a new fullness of life in the resurrection.
Today is known as Ash Wednesday. For some of us, this day represents a shared spiritual practice rich with meaning, for others it brings back memories of stale traditional forms or even a harmful legalism, and for still others it sounds like a strange ritual from a different world. In the early church, the 46 days (40 if you subtract the Sundays) prior to Easter presented an opportunity for new believers to prepare for uniting with the church by baptism. For us, this season before Easter can be an opportunity to become more aware of the weakness within us and our world, and to chase after Jesus instead of the lesser pursuits that often claim our attention.
In Matthew chapter four, just as Jesus began his public ministry, he walked into the wilderness, stayed there for forty days and nights, fasted from eating food, and was challenged by the tempter who tried to deceive, discourage, and defeat him. Jesus was weak from hunger and isolation, but he resisted the devil’s attacks and rested in the truth of God’s promise and in the security of his relationship with his Father.
Sometimes we enter the “wilderness” because life has thrown us there, and we just want to get out. At other times, we remember our weakness by denying ourselves food or removing ourselves from another basic part of life like technology. During this season, wherever life finds you, I want to encourage you to create some space and engage in practices (like prayer, an individual or group study, fasting, worship) that remind us of the truth that while waiting for the resurrection the best of our strength will end in ashes… but God is the one who creates beauty and new life out of our ashes and dust.
In his grace,