Sackcloth and Ashes
Carolyn Brock of Redmond, OR, USA
Oh my poor people, put on sackcloth, and roll in ashes; make mourning as for an only child… -Jeremiah 6:26
Ashes, for most of us, are signs of things lost, destroyed, consumed-the remnants of what used to be. At times what has been lost is sacred and irreplaceable, and we are horrified by what we have done to one another. Consider the ashes of Jews-the family of Jesus-spewing into the air over Auschwitz; the bodies of those named heretics and infidels burned at the stake by the church of Christ; the villages of Vietnam, Bosnia, and other places where scorched-earth policies have been employed. In olden days the Israelite people covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes in times of mourning and repentance. Some Christians still have their foreheads “anointed” with ashes as a sign of remembrance and repentance during the pre-Easter season.
In her book Traveling Mercies, Annie Lamott talks about the cremated ashes of her friend, Pammy, sticking to her fingers, hair, and clothing as she and Pammy’s family tried to spread them on the waters of San Francisco Bay. But the ashes would not cooperate and serenely drift away. She found that ashes “cling and haunt,” reminding her that Pammy would always be an intimate part of her.
Maybe the ashes of past human pain, injustice, genocide, holocausts, and suffering need to cling to us like glue. Not so we can be weighed down by sorrow and guilt, but so we can be reminded that we are perpetually in need of healing, repentance, transformation, and reconciliation. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, grieved human suffering and oppressive systems. His compassion also moved him to healing words and reconciling actions. Should it not also be so with us?
(Reprinted from Called by a New Name, Herald House, 2000)
I surrender into your love.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. (If that feels like too much at first, choose a time that will be comfortable for you as a starting place, committing to expand that time in future prayer.) Allow the rhythm of your breath to draw you deeper and deeper into silence. As you breathe, claim one sacred word (Christ, peace, grace, trust, etc.) emerging in you as an anchor to return you to the intention of your prayer when your thoughts begin to wander. Gently release the thoughts and images that come, making space for presence to the One who is with you here and now. Release, return, “be vulnerable to divine grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b).
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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