Last Wednesday I imposed ashes on many of my colleagues. It was my turn to lead the clergy service which meant I got to hold the small bowl of burnt palms and smudge the foreheads of retired pastors, active clergy, colleagues, friends. It is such a tender thing to do, pressing ash into the print of my finger to press onto another's skin, saying those words, "Remember, from dust you came, and to dust you shall return." So strange, to offer a remembrance of death, of our created place in the universe, of the carbon matter with which our cells are held together, and to have it feel like a blessing.
And then in the evening, to offer the same ashen mark on my congregation. To handle that which is left after fire has cooled and feel in it hope of new growth, to mark adults and children and invite them to not be afraid, to claim this promise that resurrection comes, after. To remember we are created from the ashes of stars and we will return to nurture the ground one day, to remember there is peace in that. It's a truth we don't often speak out loud, though it follows us like a shadow. But there is one day we say it and wear it -- we know something of death and yet we know something of life. We choose to live in hope, in the midst of it all.