This week, the ashes that I ordered for our service on March 2nd arrived. This week, I met with my program staff to develop the liturgy and music for our service -- both the digital service we will offer and the one in our sanctuary. I know as you read this, we are a couple of weeks away from the beginning of Lent. And yet, do we not feel ourselves getting ready for the journey, preparing ourselves for the spiritual pilgrimage in which we hope to undergo again how the story of the passion lives in our bones, has been a repeating journey for generations? This poem is about really the lineage of Ash Wednesday -- how we come to the ashes in a long line of people who have had the ash pressed upon their foreheads.
These ashes belong to some generation
that inherited the fire we lit this morning.
Last Easter’s palms, wrinkled and darkened
light easily with a wooden match,
until we sift the remains into bowls with oil
to rub upon our memories, our losses, our regrets.
You might kneel today and someone smudges your forehead
while the ash bends into your mind,
so you can see again the brevity of your thoughts,
how they come and go, linger and slip away.
This ash upon you welcomes those who stand guard
in spiritual assurance; perhaps, your mother and father,
your grandfather, the first poem by your grandmother.
They are supporting your intentions, your need to kneel.
There is a time to kneel, whether to give thanks or weep:
close to the earth you can hear the water and heat below;
the ground upon which you rest is held deep in liquid,
and your body too, rivers held by skin and bone.
Someday the water in us will be free, and our minds, too, will flow
into the great galaxy of love and hope, where we might bless
our children and grandchildren as they kneel, remembering and knowing
they are fire, water and ash. There is a power, a healing, in that:
to know the mind of love is the string of the universe to which we are attached.