This week I was challenged about the meaning of word I used when describing the Ash Wednesday service which will be taking place in church next Wednesday lunchtime at 12.30 p.m. Traditionally the service is described as including “the imposition of ashes” which is the marking of ash (created by last year’s burned palm crosses) on the forehead of each participant. Now for those of us of a certain generation and schooling, an 'imposition' was usually a minor punishment, an inconvenience, that would be dished out to those who misbehaved, the issuing of perhaps, 500 lines, a detention or in my worst case a Saturday morning, when a menial task such as clearing the grounds would have to be carried out under the supervision of the school 'sergeant'. "Is this really the impression of church we would want to convey?", came the question. Well, (in true Anglican fashion) I would want to reply "Well, yes and no”!
The imposition of ashes usually comes with the following words: "Remember that you are from dust, and to dust you shall return – turn away from sin and be faithful”
A reminder of our mortality is quite a heavy charge to receive – I have felt in the past particularly uncomfortable when marking out younger people and using these words. However, from time to time I believe that is good for us to be challenged (inconvenient though it might be at the time) as to how we live and indeed regard our lives. I for one have sometimes been guilty of wishing away days, weeks, or even months, feeling unable to wait for the next day off, treat or holiday that I have planned. It was only recently however when someone broke down an average life span into weeks (4000 if we’re lucky!), that I began to embrace each week as a gift, embracing both its possibilities and challenges, rather than see it as something I simply had to get through. Life is for living, as proclaimed with the slight change of text that we have adopted here at Brunswick.
"Remember that you are from dust, and to dust you shall return - turn away from sin and embrace the life in all its fulness that God has for you!”
In our run up to, and living through Lent, may we all live with the inconvenience of accepting that we are all born to die, but recognise and appreciate the riches of life in its fulness that we can experience in the meantime!
Keep in touch
Keep the faith.