Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday: 2012

Readings are here. Why do we gather on this day? Why do we receive ashes on our foreheads with the sign of the cross? What are we doing here? Do you notice the gospel asks us not to make a display and yet many of us wear our ashes all day. I have been thinking about this "disconnect" between our actions and our readings. The conclusion I come to at this time is that we live in a time and place where Christianity as we know it is now just one of many voices in our world. To wear the ashes in public can speak of our willingness to take a place of humility rather than triumphalism, to be servants to a hurting world rather than princes. The ashes worn publicly can open the door to conversation about our faith if our actions are showing what it means to follow Christ. I think it will depend on the attitude we carry along with the ashes. The Hymn "Once to Every Man and Nation" says:
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
Perhaps this is a new occasion? But whether one bears the ashes out into the streets or in one's heart, it is the heart that really matters as we hear in our other readings. Our very real and visible joy in life and faith. I wrote on our local listserve BBQ, an invitation to the communities of Nehalem Bay, which we serve:
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Christian churches. St. Catherine's Episcopal Church will hold the liturgy for imposition of ashes - a reminder of the shortness of life and our groundedness in earth as well as our relationship to all of creation - our dust and the dust of the stars -- all one. A time for focussing on our relationship to God and one another, to repent of the things we have done to one another and the earth and to engage in a rule of life that deepens our connections. There will be 2 services - all are welcome Noon in English 8 p.m. en Español We will be around all afternoon for those who cannot attend one of the services. 36335 Hwy 101, Nehalem. (between the Bunk House and the Hope Chest Thrift Shop) see map at website.
This contains many of the reasons we take this day to mark our foreheads. It is a break in time to stop and remember and center. I think it is important to remember that we are here for a short time and that our bodies come from the earth and its waters and our bodies will return to them. But to also remember we are made of the same matter as the stars. So yes we "are dust and to dust we shall return" but we are also "stardust and to stardust we shall return." Often I use this blessing at the end of our communion services:
My friends, life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind." (Henri-Frederic Amiel
This is the heart of Lent - to discover how to live in time here on earth in ways that bring life and hope and joy to our neighbors and to the world.