“What’s that smell?” That’s the question every parent asked their child when they arrived from Youth on Wednesday, February 7th. I’m sure they were a bit alarmed by the reeking smell of smoky grass.
For the last 5 years the week before Ash Wednesday the youth burn the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. This is one of my favorite nights of the youth year. During the evening, I use the time to reflect on the previous year’s Palm Sunday. I can envision the processional of children, youth and choir members waving palms as they enter our beautiful Sanctuary. I can hear our Chancel Choir singing His praises. I imagine how glorious it must have been to see Jesus arriving in Jerusalem, where he was welcomed with palms waving and coats thrown onto the dirt road. But through the course of a week the cries of celebration and glee turn to rage and hate.
Most of us, and especially teens, have experienced the feeling of someone turning on us, so quickly we feel we have whiplash and struggle to understand what exactly just happened.
So, on the Wednesday before Ash Wednesday, before Lent even began our youth gathered together to burn palms once used for celebration. They were dry and brittle; they burned out quickly and left a large plume of rancid smoke. What a symbolic moment we experienced when we saw a plant formed from the dust of the ground return to dust. A plant that grew beautiful, lush and green ends in a black smudge on the foreheads of sinners.
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; from dust you were formed and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
We take this time to remember we are not alone, created by God, he is there for us even when the bright and happy turn dark and sad. May this begin our Lenten journey drawing us closer to Jesus. May we remember what ashes represent. May we have the opportunity to answer a new question, “What’s that smudge on your head?”
Brooke Crumpler, Youth Director