A typical human cremation yields an amount of ash that’s equivalent to a five-pound bag of sugar. Most people just keep the ashes in an urn or scatter them, but apparently it’s possible to turn at least some of those ashes into a stunning work of art for all posterity to see.
I just read about a company called “Eternal Arts” that ran its business by turning two cups of a person’s cremains into a classic sculpture. Imagine your ashes reshaped into a replica of Rodin’s The Thinker, or one of Michelangelo’s creations. Perhaps your tastes run in the more popular realm and you’d like to become the Statue of Liberty, or a bust of Napoleon or Alexander the Great.
On this Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, we ponder the permanence of ash. It means something has burned. It is gone. Beyond recognition or recovery. Not just singed or charred, but burned.
At the end of his ordeal with God where he tried to tell God what to do, and then realized it was a bad idea, Job is quoted in the Bible as saying, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). What is burned? Well, the better question is, “who is burned?” Job himself! Or, actually, Job the person who rebelled against God and accused God and doubted God and wouldn’t trust God. That particular Job was burned, not singed or charred, but burned. Gone for good. Replaced by a new Job who wanted to live God’s way, trusted in God, and felt relieved in God’s forgiveness and love.
Want to be a better person tomorrow than today? Then on Ash Wednesday take time to repent like Job. Leave the old you behind in dust and ashes, beyond recognition. Forgiven by the love of God in Christ, begin a new day as a new person. Cremate your sinful self! And for heaven’s sake don’t try to make something out of it that it is not!
PRAYER: Most holy and merciful Father, we confess to you and to one another that we have sinned by our own fault, by our own grievous fault, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.
We have been deaf to your call to serve as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved the Holy Spirit.
Forgive us, Lord, for the wrongs we have done. For our blindness to human need and suffering and our indifference to injustice and cruelty. For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward others, and for our prejudice and contempt for those who differ from us. For what we think or say or do that is at variance with your will. Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us. Hear us, Lord, for your mercy is great. Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation, that we may show forth your glory in the world. By the cross and suffering of your Son, O Lord, bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection. Amen.
View the March 2019 Newsletter