Ash Wednesday for UU kids

Beloved Children,

Today is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the church season called Lent.

Christians usually think about Ash Wednesday and Lent in terms of sin, God, and repentance. I'm going to use different words, but for me, they mean the same thing.

Ash Wednesday is a special time to remember that all living things are part of one big family, and everything we do affects everything that happens. Unitarian Universalists sometimes use the word "interconnected." (For some people, this is part of what God means.) Part of what makes us a family is that we all come from the same stuff--earth and stars-- and we will all go back to being just that stuff someday. Everything that lives, dies, and Ash Wednesday reminds us of that (some people get ashes on their forehead or hands to remind them), it reminds us that WE will die, one day.

How does it feel, when you know that you'll die?

Some people get sad when they think about dying. Some people feel scared. Some people feel safe, knowing their life will have the same end no matter what they do. Some people feel that what they do while they are alive is even more important, because they'll die someday.

The rituals of Ash Wednesday ask us not only to remember that we will die, but also to think about how we want to live until we do. We are interconnected -- how have our lives and our words and our actions hurt other people? How have we hurt ourselves? (This is part of what Christians sometimes call sin.) Can we do anything to help heal those cuts and bruises in our hearts and our relationships? Or even to help heal wounds that we didn't make? Today is a day to wonder, and hopefully to decide that we will try. (That is part of what repentance means)

The season of Lent is 40 days, and it's a time to pay close attention to our lives and line them up with the plans we made on Ash Wednesday. We are always connected to everyone and everything, but when we forget, sometimes we connect in ways that hurt. Lent is a time to remember, and to turn our hearts, minds, and hands to healing and hope. We spend time every day thinking, reading, maybe praying or talking to someone who can guide us, working to fix what is broken, helping people, healing wounds, taking good care of ourselves. Christians and some other people remember stories about Jesus, and how he worked so hard to heal the world's wounds that he died--he was killed by people who didn't like how he was going about trying. There are lots of different ideas about why, but everyone remembering him through Lent agrees that his example of working hard to heal the world was a good one. We all hope we won't have to die in order to make the world better, but when we remember that we are going to die no matter what, it can make our work less scary.

Some people choose to "give up" something for Lent--something harmful to themselves or others, something taking up too much space in their hearts or their lives. Some make a special point to "take up" something new, a good habit or practice, something that they think should take up more space in their homes or hearts. During Lent, we work to make our lives mean something good, so that when we die, we leave behind beautiful memories and a better world. (and that doesn't have to stop on Easter, when Lent ends!)

So, today is Ash Wednesday. You came from dust, and one day you'll die and be just dust again. But right now, you're alive. Make the most of it, do something beautiful. I love you.