(This is the year most opposite from going out into the street with ashes. This is not a full service but a suggestion for a church on Zoom or live-streaming a service for simple words that a person might need to literally understand the mechanics placing the ashes on the human body. I am obviously not from a tradition that uses “imposition” language – and I lean away from reminding those tender from some church experience in the past which imposed on their lives of that hurt.)
“If you have brought home a bag of ashes from the church or gathered some from your fireplace or borrowed some soil from a friendly potted plant or mixed together some spices (cinnamon and ground cloves will do well) place them before you. Pause.
Ashes are a very personal inward-seeking sacred moment. Before you turn to yourself, take a deep breath for the world, inhaling sorrows you know from the news and exhaling love and hope and blessing. Pause.
Take a second deep breath for those who are ill, in despair or fearful now, inhaling the painful stories you know are out there, then exhaling love and hope and blessing. Pause.
Take a third deep breath for those dear to you, inhaling their needs, losses, anxieties and exhaling love, hope and blessing.
Now you are only yourself. Just you, God’s beloved child. If you are alone, mark a cross on your forehead or the back of your hand, whichever you prefer, and say, “I am human dust, and the image of God. God loves me.”
If you are with others – mark each other or offer the bowl so a person can mark themselves and say, “You are / I am human dust and the image of God. Always remember, God loves you/me.”