“Once the papers are no longer visible, say to each other: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Fire and Ashes
In many liturgical traditions Ash Wednesday is marked by a formal worship service in which the priest or church leader will make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the congregants. Often the ashes are palm fronds that have been burned from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. The purpose of this service is to mark the beginning of the Lenten season of repentance and reflection.
An at-home Ash Wednesday fire can be done around a small fire pit in any backyard, on a roof top, on the beach, or on your deck. The activity can be large-scale with a community; or small-scale around a group of candles or indoor fireplace. The point is not how grand your fire, but instead that you make time for the occasion in the first place.
- A fire
- Pieces of paper
- pencils, markers, or crayons
How To Do It
1. Toasting Marshmallows
Everyone loves to make s’mores and toast marshmallows over an open fire! But have you ever watched a marshmallow burn to a crisp? A marshmallow that has been burned on the outside is still soft and white on the inside, so much softer than it was before. This is a great tactile example of how God uses the “refining fires” of life (pain, loss, change, love, etc) to soften our hearts and loosen our grip on the illusion of control. Consider roasting marshmallows to a crisp, explaining this illustration as you do so.
2. Burning of Confessions
Somewhere near your fire, perhaps on a small table, provide all those in attendance with pencil and paper and with a small sign that prompts each person to write down those things that they would like to confess, to have burned away from their past, that they feel a call to repent of. Make sure to have markers and crayons on hands for children. Have younger children draw out their confessions.
Have everyone crumple up and toss their confessions into the fire, or put them on the end of a roasting stick. As they add their confessions to the fire, have each person recite this Psalm:
“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life”
(Psalm 51:10, The Message).
When everyone has added their confessions to the fire, take time to watch them burn in silence. Once the papers are no longer visible, say to each other “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
After the fire has cooled, return the ashes to the earth, perhaps in a garden area, where something new will spring from among the ashes.
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a writer, speaker, nest-fluffer, novice farm-gal, and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. She is also the Minister to Children, Youth, and Families at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons on a little farm in Shady Grove, Arkansas. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at http://jerusalemgreer.com
This activity comes from Jerusalem’s book A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together.
Photo © Judea Jackson, all rights reserved.