Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Recuerda que eres polvo, y al polvo volverás.

One month ago we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, tonight we are reminded of our creation as creatures of dust and Sunday Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. As I think about these readings this year I see that they all have to do with who is God and who are we and what is God calling forth in us?

The book of Genesis speaks of our creation as one of being gathered out of the dust and shaped into a human person, Adamah (not defined by gender in this part of the story - that comes later when humans are described as ish and ishah), created in the image of God. As the story unfolds - humankind gains knowledge of good and evil - no longer reacting out of instinct -but able to choose and seeing the power of choice for ones own self and for others. This leads them out of a close relationship with God - one that is described as walking unselfconsciously in the garden and talking with God as one would with a friend.

Throughout the Bible we hear God calling us back into relationship - recognizing our truly human nature that was the original blessing of creation. God sends prophets to call us back into relationship but though we hear it in the moment - we soon go back to our ways of separation (or as it is called - sin) - choosing that which serves self or family or clan first and leaves others out. Using our ability to choose - to choose the short sighted goal and not the amazing gift of God for all creation.

When we would not listen - God chose to come to us in Christ - a fully human person to show us the way to fully live. God becomes adamah. Jesus is born into a small irregular family - in the midst of a terrible time in history - where the powers of the empire and the powers of religious leaders have strayed far from the dream of God and become, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls it - the nightmare of God. The powers of this world feel the threat - Jesus' family seeks refuge in Egypt just as so many today are seeking refuge away from terror and poverty.

As our calendar of readings continues - a month ago - Jesus is baptized by John. Why would the perfect human need baptizing from sin? Now this day - we enter into remembering that we are that creature created out of the dust, then Sunday we will hear of Jesus being tempted. It is all of a piece of God trying to get our attention and remind of us of our calling to be fully human - Jesus enters into the river with all of us - declaring that being human is gift -- that we are beloved of God. This evening, as we recognize our roots in the earth and our connection with all of creation we once again turn toward God's dream for us. Jesus shows us that we will be tempted over and over to forget what that means and the preciousness of our lives. Each temptation will be one that separates us from others. Jesus does not choose to do something in the wilderness that would separate him from humankind - he does not use his power to turn stones into bread - instead he suffers hunger with all who hunger. He does not worship what is evil in this world in order to gain power - even though that power would allow him to make us do God's will. He does not fling  himself off the top of the temple to awe and amaze us into listening to him. Always he turns back to solidarity with humankind - showing by example what God wants for us.

Yet even though we know in Christ, God incarnate, the way to life - still we turn away. God is not one to give up on us, however. This year in the EfM group I mentor I have been reading the History of Christianity: the first 3000 years by Diarmaid MacCulloch - and over and over again when people have chosen to use religion and the name of God to take power for themselves, to amass fortunes and even to kill - a faithful people arise in the midst to pray and to show God's way yet again.

So we come to this day -- when once again we are asked to choose - separation/sin or relationship. We declare by taking on the dust of our creation that we are one with one another and creation and that we want to follow in the ways of God through Christ. Take time this Lent to look at how you choose - is it for short term goals of self or for the long term view of God? Begin with our book study about prayer. Prayer - listening and talking to God - is a great place to begin. Out of prayer can come amazing things. Move beyond a single purpose for prayer into really deeply conversing with God and aligning yourself with God's dream.

Remembering that we are dust - is not a groveling in the dirt activity - it is a choice to remember our creation and the hopes and dreams that God has for us. Choose the dream.

Amen.


Thanks to Suzanne Guthrie at Edge of Enclosure