Ashes, Ashes

Ring around the rosie! A pocket full of posey. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Who has played this as a child? I have fond memories of watching my mother with my girls and my niece in a Disney hotel pool, holding hands and circling around while singing this. The finale was to all fall backwards into the water, which is a clever way to help young children learn how to hold their breath and immerse their heads under water without fear. Sneaky Grandmere!

I was startled to learn that some people attribute this cute little ditty to the plagues. Yes, the plagues. It is thought that ring around the rosie refers to the fever-flush that would appear on the face with the onset of sickness. Pocket full of posey refers to the medicinal herbs that were used to treat the victim. And of course ashes refers to the necessary burning of the bodies in an attempt to stem the course of the virus that was taking out entire villages.

That is quite a morbid take on a nursery rhyme, but it does lead us into a contemplation of our own mortality as we approach the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) prior to Easter when we are invited to slow down our frazzled pace and contemplate the meaning of life, death, and life beyond death. It is a season of preparation for the marvelous celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning. We are wise to approach it with a serious, soul-searching attitude.

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Truth in the inward being is a noble pursuit. God knows the secrets of our heart, but do we? Is there stuff buried so deep that we have forgotten about it? The strength of our denial can enable us to live as though certain actions and behaviors never took place. We go along on our merry way, thinking we have gotten away with it.

Lent says otherwise. It is an opportunity to confront our deepest sin without fear, because Jesus has the power to cleanse us, FREE US, and make us whole again.

You know that the thing you have buried is still there, waiting like a ticking time bomb to resurface and explode you into pieces. God says that is not necessary. You can give it over to him and let him blot it completely out.

This Lent, let us ask God to teach us his wisdom in our secret hearts.

It’s time to come clean.

Photo courtesy of Covenant Presbyterian Church

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