Honor God, Seek Christ, Serve Others Together

Ash Wednesday Message

Dear Members and Friends of Barry Christian Church:

Managing through recurring “unprecedented” issues, with the tumbling winter jet-stream and the subsequent deep freeze conditions being the most recent, normative events can easily be forgotten!

And concerning routine spiritual events, many may have not realized that today, Wednesday, February 17th, is Ash Wednesday!  It is a day in which we typically gather for evening worship and place the mark of the cross in ashes upon the foreheads of the penitent.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our 40-day journey to Easter.  It is a season of repentance and preparation. 

Sadly, this year, Ash Wednesday Services are yet another casualty of the pandemic, as the social distancing restrictions make this spiritually meaningful service prohibitive.  And yet, even if it weren’t for the social distance restrictions imposed upon us, it appears that the stubbornly persistent cold snap may have canceled this year’s service anyway! 

Yet, as we chalk up yet another unusual experience for the past year, may I please offer to you the following meditation for Ash Wednesday, so that we may choose to acknowledge the importance of the day, albeit, once again, from the comfort of our homes. 

 What Good Are Ashes?

A Meditation for Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

 What good are ashes?  We wonder as we stare into the smoldering remains of wood consumed in the flames of last night’s campfire.  Ashes.  They appear to be the leftovers.  Nothing of worth.  They remind us of destruction, the remnants of loss and death.  Colors of black and gray, they are emblematic of death.

On Ash Wednesday we mark the sign of the cross in ashes on the foreheads of believers – those expressing repentance before God for the sin that separates one from the creator.  The ashen cross reminds us of Christ’s suffering and death. 

With the ashes upon our foreheads, we repent and seek God’s forgiveness.  Yet, as we review our own lives, we look back at our shortcomings, our inadequacies and it is easy for us to think that we are but mere dust and ash – the useless remains of that which has been consumed by life’s tribulations.  We wonder if there is any remnant left – worthy of God’s compassion, God’s attention?

Yet, as we consider ashes on this Ash Wednesday, may we look upon them from another perspective.  As we ponder the cross of Christ, may we see ashes, not as a sign of despair, but rather as a sign of hope!

In mythology, we recall that it is out of the ashes that the Phoenix arises, born again, renewed and free. 

From the Yellowstone forest fires of the late 1990’s, new and varied life has been born, offering redemption for the forests that future generations will enjoy.

After the Second World War, the citizens of Coventry, England wondered what to do with the charred remains of their once magnificent cathedral, reduced to rubble by multiple bombings.   Rather than tear down and erase the remnant, however; they built a smaller Cathedral adjacent to the remains and the entire complex has become a shrine of reconciliation for many Europeans.

From the tomb, Christ arose, victorious over sin and death, and he has offered a portal of new life for humanity to share in God’s eternal glory.

With the sign of the ashen cross, we seek repentance, but not despair.  We dwell not on our failures and shortcomings, but on redemption.  We discover the hope of new life that Christ shares with us. 

Out of the ashes, springs forth the vitality of new life, offering praise and glory to God in the name of Christ our Lord! 

A Reading of Penitence and Reconciliation

On this Ash Wednesday of 2021, we pray that our hearts and minds may be in tune with you, O God and with one another in spirit.

As we can imagine having ashes on our foreheads, we join together in seeking penitence for our sinfulness that has separated us from you, O God, and from one another. 

And as we lift up our petitions before you, O God, may we seek reconciliation with you and with one another. as we declare:  “Hear our prayer, O God.”

As Disciples of Christ, help us, O God, to use our hands, our feet, our time, and our resources, for the good of the poor.  We pray to you, O God, the god of mercy:  “Hear our prayer, O God.”

We pray that citizens everywhere may realize that care for their neighbor consists of more than the giving of money.  We pray to you, O God, the god of mercy:  “Hear our prayer, O God.”

For each of us, as we may be honest in admitting our selfishness, and that we can seek out ways to remedy our lack of love We pray to you, O God, the god of mercy:  “Hear our prayer, O God.”

A Prayer of Dedication

 Merciful God, the ashes we can envision on our foreheads, are our pledge to take up the cross of service, as we may always reflect upon what Christ has done for us. 

May these forty days of the Lenten Season be a time in which we not only repent and prepare; but may they be also be days in which we do and say that which brings glory to your kingdom here on earth. 

In the name of Christ our Lord, we offer this prayer,


The peace and presence of God be with each of you this Ash Wednesday!

Pastor Dennis


Barry Christian Church

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Kansas City, MO 64155

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