Ash Wednesday Reflection

colorado sunset


This appeared in the Wednesday Word, a publication of the UU Christian Fellowship.

Clarke Dewey Wells wrote a classic Ash Wednesday reflection in 1975: “In a world that is full of plastic smiles and cheap grace, ashes come as a kind of relief.”

Here we need not pretend.

Here we need not put on a brave face.

Here we can say: this is my heart, tattered and torn asunder.

And here is my courage, fully intact.

And here are my inner most thoughts
and here is my public face
and I’ve done what I can to make them one and the same.

I’ve failed more often than not.

So I enter into God’s grace.

I enter into God’s peace.

I silence my thoughts.

I welcome the quiet.

Put the ashes on my head.

I know one day I’ll be in a bed
tied up to oxygen,
my family all around.

Put the ashes in the form of a cross.
Cause I’ve decided, truly,
that for me, the suffering God can help.

The One who says: My shoulders are heavy,
my back aches, as we walk in the exile.

Put the ashes on my head.

One day that will be me on the bed, and the doctor
will say it is time to turn off the machines that measure
blood pressure and heart rate, and just let him peacefully go.

It is ok. Today, no fake smiles. No easy answers. No cheap grace.
Just some ashes and a friendly reminder.
From ashes to ashes. One and all.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which slings so closely, and let us run with perserverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12.1



Author: readingcarlsandburg

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving as a hospital chaplain. I am from Galesburg, Illinois, originally, now living in Colorado Springs. I love the radical Sandburg.

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