So I was in charge of Ash Wednesday at my church, because they're so low church that they just totally don't "do" that stuff, but they don't mind participating. I certainly preached to the choir. And we'll leave out that bit about trying to involve and invite other churches in the valley... yeah, this is NOT such an ecumenical place.
But, anyway, when the choir showed up (and I made it easy for them -- timed it right before choir practice!), we gathered in the apse of the church --
sorry, another sidetrack -- we gathered there because the rest of the sanctuary was full of rummage for the rummage sale, but i'd planned this service for smack in the middle of rummage-sorting-prep. So we pushed some tables to the side to make a safe walking place, ran Christmas lights on the floor like airplane emergency exit signals, and put up a few screens -- voila! instant mini-sanctuary.
So we gathered in the apse, behind the communion table, and we sang songs and read scriptures, and I spoke off notecards without a sermon manuscript, and then we wrote things we wanted to give away to God and put them in an old iron pot and burned them and ashed our faces with the ashes (plus some pre-prepared).
WE DID NOT CONTEMPLATE OUR MORTALITY. except when one feisty old lady said something about ashes "well, you can have MY ashes." and everyone scolded her.
WE DID NOT SAY ASHES TO ASHES DUST TO DUST.
Instead. We contemplated a symbolic seedling.
And we said
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.
May these ashes be for us
a sign of your creative power,
and a reminder that by your grace
you can bring us through death to life
through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Because some of us have had enough death around here, enough fasting, enough grieving, and we are asking God to prepare us for LIFE.
Lent doesn't mean "sackcloth and ashes" it means SPRINGTIME.
ahem. thank you very much for letting me shout at you on your computer.