Ashes to Ashes

What to share in the Memory Care Unit Chaplain’s Corner this morning? Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent so I decided to share about “ashes.”

I took in a small glass bowl from my kitchen cupboard and wore a cross that I don’t usually wear. I announced that I was going to talk about these two symbols – ashes and the cross. A new lady who was sitting up front said in a stage whisper, audible to the whole room, “I don’t believe in that bunk!” Meanwhile the aid came in to claim men for haircuts! As we settled again I acknowledged her cynicism.

Putting ashes on our heads is not a recent practice that started with Christians, I had learned that morning.  I reviewed the story of Amnon, the first son of King David (about 1500 BC I guessed) who loved his half sister Tamar, sister of Absolom by the third wife! It was wrong for a brother to marry a half sister but the sneaky cousin told Amnon to fake being sick and ask for the sister to fix food for him in his quarters. He did and then he sent his servants out and used and abused Tamar. Tamar in her grief took the ashes from the fire and spread them over her head and tore her clothes. Suddenly I pondered as I looked at the faces intently watching me, how many of these women have experience incest and have the story locked inside minds that don’t work right any longer. But they know the grief.

The second story came from Daniel, years later, who wore sackcloth and ashes for the grief of his country in exile in Babylon. Grief over national sin. Certainly we can relate to that. Wars, starvation, economy, homelessness…all those things plague our world.

Whether it is personal grief over the sins of our humanness or the grief of corporate sin by our country, certainly acknowledging our humanness and grief publicly by having a cross of ashes placed on our foreheads Wednesday is in order. It is an ancient tradition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: