among the ashes

by Pastor Mark Jordan

“Job…sat among the ashes.” (Job 2:8, NRSV)

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the official beginning of the season of Lent, and a time where we reflect upon our mortality, sinfulness, and need of a savior. One of the reasons we call today, Ash Wednesday, is because we mark the day by putting the sign of the cross on the forehead with ash. Many churches, and Trinity at The Well included, burn the previous year’s palms from Palm Sunday to connect the beginning of this year’s Lenten observance with last year’s celebrating of Holy Week.

Today’s verse comes from the Book of Job. It is a challenging text, because it makes the realities of spiritual warfare tangible. The verse for today comes very early in Job, and gives us the picture of one faithful to God sitting among the ashes of what was, taking in all that was lost to him. Perhaps you can relate to this feeling, where it appears all is lost, and the only thing you can do is sit and grieve while taking in what was and what could have been.

Ash Wednesday calls us to do the same spiritually, if not literally. We are called to sit among the ashes and consider what was and would could have been. With knowledge of how the Story ends, however, we shall not read about Job without hope, because we know that Jesus comes to redeem and restore even the most hopeless of realities.

Honestly, the whole idea of sitting among the ashes was one I did not fully understand until I had to sit among them myself in the summer of 2019. I was distraught. I felt hopeless. I sat among the ashes after the sudden death of my daughter, wondering what happened while grieving what could have been. Several people shared the phrase with me from Job and committed to sit in the ashes with me. Then, the church, and our broader community joined them. Sitting among the ashes became something that wasn’t steeped in loss, but gain. Though I felt alone, I wasn’t. Though all felt lost, it wasn’t. The time sitting in the ashes, and with the one who joined me, help to lovingly live life back into me.

Friends, I hope that you can find time and a place to go and sit in the ashes with someone today. Gather in a place of worship and allow the ashes to remind you of your mortality and your need for a savior. This is not just for you, but for those with whom you will also gather. Your presence and participation might just be the sign and symbol of hope needed to emerge from those awful ashes with renewed faith, hope, and love. It can, and will, change a life; perhaps beginning with your own.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I bow humbly before you today, acknowledging the ash heaps of life. Help me to know of the faith, hope, and love you bring to me in Christ Jesus, so I may share that with others. Whether it is sitting quietly, or walking alongside someone, I want to be in those ashes as you are. I pray this in the name of your Son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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