The sign says “Ashes on the Go”. There is snow on the lawn. The sun is shining. The thermometer says 38 degrees, but it feels more like 30, thanks to the wind. Four people gather on the bare parking lot. Three wear white robes, two with purple stoles.
People arrive in cars. Some park, get out of their cars, and walk over to those in white robes. Others roll down their windows and stay in their cars. Words are exchanged. “What is your name?” “Emily.” A gloved finger disappears into a container, emerging black, and marks a gritty cross on Emily’s forehead. “Emily, child of God. Remember! From dust you have come and unto dust you shall return. By the grace of God. Amen.” A piece of paper is given. Conversation follows.
People come to receive ashes. Ashes are given. The transaction is completed.
But, as is always the case when you partner with God, there is more! Eyes meet with eagerness and a level of understanding honed by eleven months of really gazing into eyes. Mouths, covered with face masks, have disappeared from our nonverbal repertoire; we have had to rely on eyes and have become better at really seeing them. Words emoting joy and concern are shared. Gloved hands gently squeeze coated shoulders. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, this is “Ashes on the Go – PLUS”.
I am the fourth person. I distribute 3” x 8.5” pieces of textured paper in colors ranging from light blue to dark purple. I approach those with newly smudged foreheads. “Do you have a place to plant something?” “Yes.” I hand them a piece of paper. They look confused. “We don’t say ALLELUIA during Lent…….it’s a kind of a fasting from ALLELUIA so, when Easter finally arrives, saying it feels much more joyful.” They look at the paper more closely, finding the word ALLELUIA written in black marker. “We have a banner with the word ALLELUIA on it. Typically, this time of year, we would bury that banner in an old wooden trunk, loudly slamming the lid shut. But we aren’t meeting in person right now, so we mailed these papers, giving our congregation a way to “bury the ALLELUIA” at home.” They continue to look confused. “This is seed paper. If you look closely, you can see the seeds. Bury your own ALLELUIA by covering this paper with just a bit of dirt.” My thumb and forefinger illustrate a 1/4” space. “Weather permitting, by Easter you will have little flower plants.” Eyes light up with understanding and excitement.
People came to the Trinity Lutheran parking lot to be on the receiving side of a transaction involving ashes. This occurred, but they left with more. They left feeling welcomed by those they might not even know. They left with their eyes having been seen. They left having been touched. They left with a colorful piece of paper and a take-home activity. They left rejoicing at having received what they expected PLUS things that, 30 minutes earlier, they didn’t even know that they wanted…….We come to God, thinking that we know what we need and what we will get. He knows us so much better than we know ourselves. He “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” abides in a realm of PLUS, providing beyond what we expect or deserve.
People showed up in the Trinity Lutheran parking lot to be on the giving side of a transaction involving ashes. This occurred, but they left with more. They left grateful for sunshine and fair weather. They left having seen loved ones they had not seen (in person) for months. They left delighted by the many “strangers” they had opportunity to welcome. They left having experienced holy moments, all because they were willing to serve and to trust God for the rest. He “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” abides in a realm of PLUS, providing beyond what we expect or deserve.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.