Friday, February 19, 2016
“Remember, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Ash Wednesday Service Liturgy
As I stood in the parking lot, I was anxious to see who would approach us to receive Ashes. This year on Ash Wednesday, several of our Manhattan Ministers came together to provide “Ashes-To-Go” in prominent places in our community, like the County Court House, AggieVille, KState Campus and we were at the west Dillon’s grocery store. I wondered if anyone would be upset that a protestant female minister was offering what is more traditionally a Catholic service. Father Patrick from St Paul’s Episcopal Church and I were both dressed in our robes and stoles, holding our ashes prepared from last year's palm branches. He brought a short liturgy, which enabled us to have mini-services with those receiving ashes. Sometimes the mini-liturgy would be read by three of us, at other times there were as many as 5 or 7 people gathered at once. No one tried to kick us off of their property, and no one heckled or ridiculed us. People of all ages came, telling us a little bit about where they had come from or where they were going. Sometimes instead of using the liturgy, I would invite them to reflect on what the ashes meant for them. “In the Bible, ashes were used to symbolize lament and repentance, so these ashes can symbolize your prayers for forgiveness or sorrow for our broken world. Consider what they will represent for you.” One woman replied, “Rebirth and new life.” As a Christian minister who is constantly preaching about God doing a “new thing” among us, I was awe struck by this new metaphor while placing her ashes. The mythological figure of a Phoenix represents the new life only accessible through fire, death and rebirth, and Jesus offers us more than a metaphor in the flesh. Like the children who smiled from ear to ear as I placed the ashes on their forehead, this women saw the beauty in God’s message of redemption. Death will come for us all, but death does not have the final word. Trials will come and go, but Christ came so that we might endure and flourish in our life here on earth AND that we might joyfully accept the new life to come. We stood as reminders of God’s mercy in that busy parking lot, and we were reminded of God’s compassion for all of humanity.