Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday the official beginning of Lent. It gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned and are imprinted as a sign of the cross by the priest who presides at the service. As he does so, he recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The ashes of Lent are the sign of our mortal bodies and the reminder that God has turned death to ashes. They are the memorial of our sin and the proof that Christ has beaten down Satan under his feet. They are the evidence of our dying and the hope of our living in him.” (From The Ashes of Lent by Dorsey McConnell)
I think that this year for many of us who are Australian the imagery of ashes has much deeper significance than usual. At least 209 died in the recent bushfires which were the worst in living history, though the exact number is not known yet because some of the bodies were literally burnt to ashes. This, coupled with the memories of the 1983 bushfires which actually swept through Victoria and South Australia on Ash Wednesday destroying 2500 homes have made us very aware of our own mortality and of the brokenness of our world in which such devastation could be caused deliberately by arsonists.
As you watch this video may it remind you of your own mortality. All of us will one day return to the dust and ashes of death, and as we watch the fires that took so many lives we are reminded of our own need for the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn through our lives and destroy everything that would turn us to ashes too. Remember not just your own brokenness and your need for repentance but all those who are broken and in need of refining fire of God’s spirit in order to find repentance.