But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Reflection: Beauty from Ashes :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman
Ashes used in Ash Wednesday services are often made from palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. This is one of the beautiful synchronicities of the liturgical year—reminding us that the cycles of sin, repentance, mercy, resurrection, and commission are ever-ongoing.
Today, whether you are a part of a faith tradition that observes Ash Wednesday services or not, follow this guided prayer experience.
Meditate on the visual pictures and the scriptures and pray in your own words.
Ashes symbolize sorrow.
We are probably most familiar with ashes as a symbol of sorrow. They can symbolize our sorrow over our personal sins or a personal loss, or sorrow over the sins or loss suffered by our community or nation.
In ashes we mourn both the catastrophes that naturally happen in our broken world and the ones we, ourselves, orchestrate through our lusts and misguided selfishness.
What is planted in your life that is not of God? Are you watering and fertilizing weeds instead of the good seed of the gospel? Lent is a time to gather up the tares among your wheat—gather them to be burned to ash.
“Repent and believe the gospel” (The Roman Missal: Chapel Edition)
Ashes symbolize destruction and death.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (The Roman Missal: Chapel Edition)
In cultivating our faith, we must go through seasons of destruction. Our fields must be burned. The ashes tilled under.
What is God tilling under the soil in your life? What is he burning down? Let it go. Let it burn.
“Fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3.13)
Ashes symbolize rebirth.
In worship at the temple, some ashes were used in ceremonies of cleansing and purification.
Burning leads to purification, restoration, renewal. The soil that is burned and turned is fertilized for replanting.
Lent can be a time of burning, in which God prepares us for new growth.
Ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you through the burnt field of your life, through the burnt field of your work. Ask the Spirit, during the time of burning, to reveal to you what He will plant next.
God will bring us…”a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning”… (Isaiah 61.1-3)
Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you — Psalm 33.22
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Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death
— George Herbert