Ashes to Ashes

Ring around the Rosy
Pockets full of Posies
Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down!

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A childhood ditty, a childhood game but one familiar to most of us in some form or fashion.

It has a long history and versions exist in multiple languages.

There has been much speculation about origins and meanings. Some have suggested a pagan background. Still others a reference to the Great Plague or black death.

As dramatic as that might be—and the story is fairly convincing (rosy is a rash, posies are for the smell, and ashes signify death), that’s an explanation that only came into play around the mid-twentieth century. (If you are interested, Wikipedia has a fairly exhaustive article on its origins.)

Be that as it may, we have ingrained into our culture the idea that ashes signify death and decay. In fact, one doesn’t have to think very hard for the phrase Ashes to ashes; Dust to dust to enter our minds.

That particular expression is a melding of several Old Testament passages. When you add in the idea of cremation, ashes become an even more vivid description of dying, death, and decay.

Sunday is Easter.
Resurrection Sunday.
Resurrection Day.
A day in which most of the western Christian world focuses on the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the defeat of death, and the promise of new life, eternal life for those who belong to the Lord.

Sunday is about the hope we can know every day. The knowledge that our sins have been taken away. The faith certainty that even though we die, we will live again.

I don’t wish death on anybody. I hope we all get to live full and vibrant lives—secure in the knowledge that when this life ends, we have only just begun.

That’s resurrection promise.
That’s resurrection power.

But even more than that, I want you to know the hope of the resurrection now. I want you to know that even though your current situation or circumstances may be the ashes of defeat, heartache, pain, and struggle, you can know and experience resurrection power today.

In the ashes of life, there is hope.

His name is Jesus and He is the Resurrection and the life!

May you be blessed with a happy resurrection of you and yours!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

The Hope & Hurt of Easter

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A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
Where do I begin?

Do you remember the days,
We built these paper mountains
And sat and watched them burn?
I think I found my place
Can’t you feel it growing stronger?
Little conquerors

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?

(Walk by the Foo Fighters)

Easter Sunday 2015 (two days ago as I write this), I preached about the Resurrection—about hope.

In this sermon…

• I made oblique references to my own struggle of pain and heartache. I talked about Martha’s words to Jesus after Lazarus had died.
• I spoke of my reactions—of stomping my feet and shaking my fists—of demanding answers from an otherwise silent God.
• I committed the Hara-Kiri of clichéd Christianity by unequivocally stating God does not always show up on time. And from Martha and Mary’s perspective as well as ours, that is often the case.
• I mentioned the words of a Jeremy Camp song I once heard and tried to sing along with at a double funeral a few years ago… there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face…

On Easter Sunday 2015, I sucked up my pain and lived by my own words. I gave Jesus all my hurts and fears. I claimed the hope of the Resurrection as my own, because there will be a day!

And it was a good day. I wasn’t the smooth communicator I wanted to be as I stood before such a nice crowd. But, on the other hand, my words were authentic and so was the desperate desire to communicate the only real source of strength…

But all that was Easter Sunday 2015.
Two days ago.

Since then, the rush of Easter has passed.
The adrenaline of the day has faded.

Two days after Easter, I still cry…
I cry over my losses.
I cry over the ache of my family.
I cry because even in my hope, the pain will always be there.

And that brings me back to the hope of Easter.

Easter is about new beginnings, reboots, and fresh starts.
It’s about learning to walk and talk again.

Easter is about our shared pain, our shared hope.

My favorite Bible verse is found in the story of Lazarus’ resurrection: Jesus wept.
And he did.
I believe He still does.
His tears mingle with mine.
His tears mingle with yours.
And though we hurt and weep together, in the story of the Resurrection, we find hope.

Together.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Ps 112:1-2)

May the Lord be praised,
for He has heard the sound of my pleading.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices,
and I praise Him with my song.
(Ps 28:6-7)

Together!
Les Ferguson, Jr.