What you’ll see are – ashes.
You’ll see some peculiar people around town who have ashy faces.
The first one you come to may been someone who smiles at you. And if you’re feeling a bit “engaged” or “compassionate,” you may awkwardly point toward his or her face and say
“Um… Say, You’ve got a little something on your forehead, up there right above your glasses.”
If you have a tissue, you might offer it to them.
They’ll likely smile and nod a knowing nod and politely refuse your gift.
But then, as the day went on, you’ll see more of them.
Dark and dirty little “plus signs” smeared on people’s faces.
They couldn’t’ve all forgotten to look in the mirror this morning.
Something weird is going on.
Something strange. Something odd.
What in the heck would cause otherwise normal looking people, who are living their lives, carrying on about their business, at the coffee shop, at the laundry, at the bank, at the grocery store, at the gym and in Congress… to want to look so ridiculous?
To be so unclean?
Did they drink someone’s Kool-Aid?
Is it some new trend or fad like planking, an ice bucket challenge, or Tide Pods?
Did they lose a bet?
Or perhaps, just maybe,
….they know something.
Perhaps they know that they’re going to die and they’re sick and tired of denying it and pretending it’s never going to happen.
Perhaps they know that it is “from ashes that they have come and it is to ashes they shall return.”
Perhaps they know the “namaste” they say is only a rote, trite, vapid buzzword unless it’s the namaste of authentic divinity which creates life out of the dust; and which – while not limited to this – breathes life into mud-people, and was born among the muck and dung of a barn.
Perhaps they know that the only way to regain their true image is to humble themselves and
allow the Etch-a-Sketch of their lives to be shaken.…
Perhaps that smudge of burnt dried palm leaf ash on their flesh is a way of owning that they are mortal, that they aren’t perfect, that they aren’t all that, that they’ve still got a long way to go.
and to be more focused instead on what really matters
– recognizing their dependence on God and their ability to give a damn about others.
May those of us have eyes to see, see.
XX – Roger
Rev. Roger Wolsey is a United Methodist pastor and author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity
Ash Wednesday and Lent in 2 Minutes