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Ashes

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Feb 16 in Musings
“Hey there’s a smudge on your forehead, some dirt or something.” The grocery store clerk is trying to be helpful.  But I’m standing in a busy market with a line of customers growing behind me. I don’t know how to respond.

How do I explain that it’s not a smudge, but the mark of Ash Wednesday ashes?
           
How do I explain that it’s a tradition Jesus’ people have practiced for century upon century?
           
How do I explain that the ashes are applied amid the sounds of the disappointed voice of God (Genesis 3), as He comes to grips with the darkness of the human heart? 
           
How do I explain that Ash Wednesday might be the one real, authentic time that anyone actually tells the truth?  We all sin. All will die. All. No exceptions. We are all headed the same direction.  “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
           
How do I explain standing in Wylie Chapel, speaking THOSE words to an octogenarian who, odds are, won’t be around a year from now?
           
How do I explain the agony of placing the ashen sign on the foreheads of two beautiful young girls, neither yet four years old?
           
How do I explain the depravity of the human heart that fires an AR-15 rifle at former classmates and ends 17 lives...on this exact day?
           
How do I explain that in spite of everything written above, it is not a season devoid of hope?  In fact...hope abounds. The smudge on the forehead is in the rough shape of the cross.
           
How do I explain that everything, EVERYTHING deathly, earthly or heavenly connects to the cross?
           
How do I explain that Ash Wednesday is not Good Friday? On the latter we focus on the cross of Jesus. On the former we focus on our need for it. Yes, we will die, but we die in Christ. A Christ whom death cannot hold down.

“Hey, there’s a smudge on your forehead.”  Yes there is. Smile.    
 
 
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan                              

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