Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down

By Cindy Koch

Little hands entwine. Circles of children begin to spin. Laughs and giggles, faster and faster. Bounce, bound, bump, bob. They all fall down.

Ring around the Rosie is a classic childhood game. Generations of our children have chanted this simple rhyme. We have spun together, we have fallen together, and we have gotten up to play just one more time. 

But there is a much darker aspect to this happy childhood song. It is rumored to describe the great plagues of our history. Rosy rashes, posies to keep the stench of death away, ashes from the burnt plague victims, finally all fall dead. Although folklorists deny any evidence to these historical connections, our happy and carefree children will one day hear this popular nursery rhyme’s tale of death. Suddenly, our bright-eyed babes will be faced with the terrifying memory of dancing to such a sad story. They will remember how they laughed when they fell down dead. They will realize the gravity of their song and cry out, “But I didn’t even know!”

Accurate or not, important or trivial, we all discover evil dark shadows where we least expect it. In a song, in a word, in an action, in a relationship, in the best intentions from our heart, a sickening story seems to find its way to the surface. But what if we didn’t know it was there? It’s not our fault, right? We were just innocent kids minding our own wholesome business when a song of death unexpectedly oozed from our lips.

Even if we didn’t know it before, we have big problems. Even when we are the best version of ourselves, we still remember those times when we hurt others and failed to help them. Even when we stay on the right track to health and life and prosperity, death and failure still nip at our heels with every step. Even when we think we have it all figured out, God speaks His Holy Word and teaches us another way we continue to disappoint Him.

Suddenly, we learn that we were never innocent. We were conceived in a world groaning with death. We were birthed into a pool of wickedness. Whether we knew it or not, we are declared guilty before the Almighty Holy God.

Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.

The song of death we sang carelessly as a child, the Creator of the Heavens and Earth now sings to us.

For you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

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Now you hear your dark story of death. Unexpectedly, your ears understand the severity of your choices. Sadly, your eyes see the consequences of a creation rotting with decay. Receive the dusty symbol of judgment ashes both upon your forehead and upon your heart. You are dust; you are dead.

Jesus Christ received this judgment in full measure, not simply a dirty mark of shame. Rather, He received your lonely, bloody cross and surrendered His life for yours. The unnamed mistakes that belong to you died with Christ. The unintentional corruption you love died with Christ. The sinner that hides inside you died with Christ.

And just like our simple game of Ring around the Rosie, on account of Christ, we are raised back up. Laughing and giggling, alive and free, we can spin around again. The ashes that once infected our hearts have been washed clean. There is no more dark story of death for us.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4

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