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Ashes to Ashes

February 22, 2012
Last Wednesday began like any other Wednesday night, where I went to the chapel to teach the Awana children. Usually we cover a Bible story or topic relating to Christianity, but this night was a little bit different. This night I took them all outside into the courtyard and taught them how to play with fire. Don’t get me wrong, it was perfectly safe, and there was an incredible teaching moment involved. You see, we were talking about Ash Wednesday, what it means, why we do it, and from where we get the ashes. Ash Wednesday is a tough enough topic for many adults, being reminded of their mortality and hearing they came from dust and to dust they shall return. It begins to sound similar to words uttered at funeral. So to experience an Ash Wednesday service as a child can sometimes be a little intimidating. Active imaginations begin to wonder, where do those ashes come from?
To ease any fears that may come up tonight, as we impose ashes on the children’s foreheads, I always meet with them a week before, to show them exactly where we get those ashes. If any of you are wondering, they come from the dried palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service. So we took the palms, laid them in a fire chimenea, and burnt them. Being pretty dry, they ignited quickly and made a magnificent flame.

Burning palm branches for Ash Wednesday with the Awana kids.

The kids all watched in awe and excitement, and then the questions began.

I love kid questions. They always amaze me, and often make me laugh, and I have to wonder what’s going on inside of their heads. Many of the questions are also thinly veiled disguises for the chance to tell a story, often about something completely unrelated. But I love that they are engaged and wanting to share and learn. Most of them stayed on topic, asking about Ash Wednesday or Lent. But one question from a young little girl made me smile. “Is God always with us?” That one’s easy. “Absolutely. God is always, always, always with us, because God loves us so much.”

So in remembering that, there really is nothing to fear about Ash Wednesday. Yes, we are told of our need to repent. Yes, we are reminded that one day we’ll die. But we are also reminded that Lent is a season of preparation, of growing closer to God, of understanding that nothing can separate us from the love of God…neither death nor life, nor anything else in all creation.


So whatever your understanding of Ash Wednesday, I hope you’ll join us tonight for our Ash Wednesday service at Snellville UMC at 7:00 pm. Together we will begin the season of Lent with a chance to hear about God’s love, grace and forgiveness. We’ll gather as a community of believers to remember how much God loves us and all Jesus went through to share that love. We’ll hear of ways we can prepare our hearts to grow our love for God and strengthen our relationship as we go throughout these 40 days of Lent.

Oh, and we’ll play with fire! I hope you’ll come.

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