Ash Wednesday can be a tricky holiday to talk about with kids. “Pancake Tuesday” can seem a lot more kid friendly – it’s a party, after all! However, I do think that many aspects of Ash Wednesday can be accessible and meaningful for kids. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality, yes, but also our earthliness – that we come from the same atoms that form the rest of the universe, including dirt and soil. Lent is a season about perspective – putting ourselves and our lives in perspective. Remembering what matters. Kids sometimes have a better time connecting with dirt than adults. They often talk to worms and bugs and feel a sense of connection that adults sometimes like to pretend doesn’t exist.
It is also about remembering how quickly a celebration can turn into a disaster and the fleetingness of our experiences. Ash Wednesday is the day when we find last year’s crepe paper and balloons crumpled in a box, when we find crumbs in the couch leftover from a fun dinner eaten with a movie. Because the ashes are made from burning last year’s Palm Sunday leaves, that connection is very vivid. It is a reminder that times change and things disintegrate and do not last forever.
With kids, there are a lot of conversations you can have about these themes. I think consumerism can be a really key one – a new toy is great today, but will the excitement really last? How can we find joy in things that do last – i.e. caring for others. How do we feel sometimes after a party or a holiday? Let down? Sad? How can we deal with these feelings and come to appreciate the quieter and more sombre times in life too?
It was great to see some families from the congregation when Christopher, Rob, and I went out into the streets to give people ashes on Wednesday! Here is the description of Ashes to Go that we handed out to folks on cards:
Why “Ashes to Go”?
Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and God’s ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent, preparation for the celebration of Easter.
We’re offering ashes on the street corner today because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldn’t be confined to a church building. The ashes we receive here are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of God’s call to us.
There is much more to the beginning of Lent than ashes alone, and we invite you to consider joining us at Fairlawn Ave United Church (28 Fairlawn Ave) for worship tonight at 7pm or on any Sunday at 10:30 am. But God meets us not just in worship, but in the midst of life, and we offer the opportunity to remember our faith to those whose schedules make it hard to stop and pray with others today.