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Ashes to Ashes: Observing Ash Wednesday at Home

The weather is great for an outdoor Ash Wednesday service @ home.

Here’s an option that families might enjoy using a brazier or BBQ along with marshmallows!

Introduction to Lent

Lent is a 40 day period traditionally celebrated with fasting, repentance and giving to the poor. For us it’s an intentional season of picking up and putting down. Of embracing rhythms and practices that give life and putting down patterns and habits that lead us to death.

The word Lent is derived from a word that was used to signify spring – the season of new life arising from the barrenness of winter. So we celebrate the new things that God does in us as we pick up those things that bring life. And yet in NZ it is an autumn season – a season of death as life cycles towards a season of winter. So we celebrate the things that must die in us as we lay down those things that bring us and others death. For us it’s a time of learning to surrender who we are to God. Over Lent we will learn to surrender those things that do not reflect the life that Jesus has called us to. Over Lent we will discover the freedom that comes from surrendering ourselves to those habits and behaviours that help us to live in greater harmony with the God who created us and called us.

Introduction to Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday begins our forty day season of Lent that leads to Easter. On Ash Wednesday, we come together like the people of the Old Testament to remind ourselves that we don’t always follow God’s ways and need to ask God for His mercy and forgiveness. Like God’s people in the time of the prophets, we wear ashes to show that we want to turn away from whatever keeps us from God, and to have a change of heart, so that we can live in right

relationship with God and each other.

The Illustration

Everyone loves to 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 (various forms—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 to your kids as you do so. And then of course enjoy some toasted marshmallows or S’mores!

Burning of Confessions

Step 1: Take time to write down or draw picture of something which you need to surrender,

something you need to lay down – an attitude towards another person, maybe fighting with your brother or sister, resenting a workmate, taking something that is not yours to take, gossiping about a friend, leaning on food, or TV, or alcohol, or another person in a way which satisfies your hunger for God in an unhealthy way – whatever God calls to mind in this moment. Write it down, draw a picture – represent it in some way.

Step 2: 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:

“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit in me ” (Psalm 51:10).

Step 3: After 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.”

Step 4: Carefully extract some ashes from the fire and mix with olive oil in a metal or other bowl that won’t catch on fire or melt! Don’t add water - water plus ash = LYE which is a bleaching agent! Once your ashes are cool, you can then make the sign of the Cross on each other’s forehead and say they words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Step 5: 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.

Other Resources

Here’s a selection of prayers and other resources you can use.

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy

we have sinned

in what we have thought and said,

in the wrong we have done

and in the good we have not done.

We have sinned not knowing what we do:

we have sinned in weakness:

we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry.

We repent and turn to you.

Forgive us, for our Saviour Christ's sake,

and renew our lives to the glory of your name. Amen

Administration of Ashes

God of love,

you create us from the dust of the earth;

may these ashes be for us a reminder that we do not always choose ways that lead

to life for ourselves and others, a reminder of our turning from these things and

leaving them in your hands,

and a reminder that only by the cross

do we receive eternal life

in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Closing Blessing

Blessing The Dust

All those days you felt like dust, like dirt, as if all you had to do was turn your face

toward the wind and be scattered to the four corners or swept away by the smallest

breath as insubstantial—

did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?

This is the day we freely say we are scorched.

This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning.

This is the moment we ask for the blessing that lives within the ancient ashes,

that makes its home inside the soil of this sacred earth.

So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame.

Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are

but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff

of which the world is made and the stars that blaze in our bones and the galaxies

that spiral inside the smudge we bear.

Closing Blessing

Through the cross of Christ,

May God have mercy on us,

pardon us and set us free.

Know that you are forgiven

and be at peace.

God strengthen you in all goodness

and keep you in life eternal.


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