An Ash Wednesday poem for those of us who have evening services…
It’s an odd thing, really.
Ashes mixed with oil
smeared on foreheads
this late in the day.
Almost no one will see
Our act of piety
The visible sign
dissolves into the evening darkness
as we go home
wash our faces
and get ready for bed.
Most Ash Wednesday services take place early.
We see the evidence of morning or lunchtime piety
on the faces of co-workers and friends.
Sometimes we look twice
“There’s something on your forehead.”
The dark smudge of ash confuses us at first
We’re not used to seeing it
it came from a dirty hand.
He filled up his gas tank, he scratched his forehead
Her hand must have brushed the side of her car, then she pushed her hair away.
That mark – that dirt -it’s there for a reason.
And as for us – we’re here for a reason, too.
Never mind the lateness of the hour
or the ashy darkness of the evening sky
we’ve come here to remember
and to repent.
We’ve come to hear those ancient words
Remember – you are dust.
And to dust you will return.
We’ve come to pick up our crosses
to wear our crosses where the world can see
if only for a little while.
Thank God that’s not the end of the story.
If it were just the ashes
if it were just repentance
if it were only one night singled out for remembrance of sin
Who would come?
Who wants to be part of a people who call themselves dirty
Who tell themselves once a year that they are going to die?
Tonight we wear our ashes at the table.
Tonight even though we stand with the evidence of our guilt
smeared across our faces.
We remember God’s grace
We remember God’s mercy
We remember God’s desire
to cleanse us
to make us worthy
to make us whole.
So we do this odd thing
late in the day
and God’s move is even more odd
and with the gentlest of touches
the oil, the ashes, the dirt of our lives?
Completely wiped away.