Smudge of ashes and renewal

Ashes could be considered worthless and insignificant and look like lifeless dust. They may represent the end of something– or even death– but ashes can help us understand more about our relationship with God.

Ashes were once something else. Some were trees, flowers, palm branches or crops, but fire changed them into ashes and now they have a brand new purpose.

This seemingly worthless residue of former life can be transformed and used in a new way.

Ashes can make soap for cleansing. Soap made from ashes can wash away stains, get rid of germs, and take out bad smells. Ashes remind us that God will wash away the wrong things we have done and give us clean hearts and a new start.

Ashes can enrich soil for new growth. Farmers sometimes burn old dead plants, plow the ashes into the soil, and make the soil richer for new plants to grow. Ashes remind us that where there once was hopelessness, love can grow. Out of death springs life.

Ashes may be used by Christians on a day called Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of the church season called Lent. It falls 6 1/2 weeks before Easter, because Lent lasts for forty days (not counting Sundays). Lent is a time to grow closer to God and to get our hearts ready for Easter.

A long time ago when people were sad or sorry about something, they would rub ashes all over their skin and their clothes so everyone could see that they were sorry or sad. We don’t do that anymore, but instead we can have a little smudge of ashes on our skin to show that we are sorry for not loving God and others the way we should. When we look at the smudge, we remember that we want to try to love God better. The ashes remind us that God loves and forgives us.

Christian churches of many denominations, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, recognize Ash Wednesday with imposition of ashes. Worshipers can have a small mark of ashes rubbed on their skin, often in the shape of a cross. Ashes are a reminder that God can cleanse and renew us.

  • The ashes can be placed on your forehead or on the back of your hand.
  • The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are not hot.
  • It doesn’t hurt to have ashes rubbed onto your skin.
  • The dark smudge will easily wash off with soap and water.
  • Even after the ashes wear off, God’s love is still with you.

In Old Testament scripture, we read that life was created out of the dust of the earth. If God can use something seemingly worthless like dust or ashes to create new life, God can take you or me and do something wonderful, too. God can take what appears to be destroyed and make a new thing grow in its place.

Dear God, Thank you for forgiving us and giving us a new start. We remember that you love us. Please help us love you more. Amen.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

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