“The Blessing of Ashes”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent. Lent is a time to become more spiritually in tuned with Jesus. It is a time for self-examination and introspection as we stretch our spiritual imagination to see the world through the eyes of Jesus; a time for confession and living into that forgiveness that we know through the life of Jesus.
Today I am reminded of the many times I walked into an early morning worship service commemorating Ash Wednesday. The tone for the service was set by the somber music that filled the room. I watched worshippers process down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary for the imposition of ashes. Ashes were placed on each person’s forehead in the sign of a cross. Ashes are imposed as a reminder of our mortality and the need for reconciliation with God. On this day, we are called to confess our sins and profess our devotion to God. As the ashes are placed, the minister often offers a blessing, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
On Ash Wednesday 2023, I am reminded of the poem written by James Weldon Johnson titled The Creation. This creative account of the creation story is my absolute favorite, especially the last few stanzas. After God made the sun and the moon, the stars in the sky and all living things on the earth, God was not finished. Our great Creator God found that after all that had been done, God was lonely and decided that the creation story was not finished. God decided to make humankind.
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till [God] shaped it in [God’s] own image;
Then into it [God] blew the breath of life,
And [humankind] became a living soul. *
The imposition of ashes on this day reminds me that I am made in the image of God. The blessing, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” is a promise of God’s unfailing, creation-determined love for a confessing and repentance world. During this season of Lent, may we confess and find comfort in God’s forgiving love. Amen. Amen.
Rev. Belva Brown Jordan is the Interim Executive Director at Disciples Seminary Foundation.
* The bracketed words were changed to reflect more inclusive language. You can read the original version of this poem at: https://poets.org/poem/creation