Here we are again, Ash Wednesday. In many ways it is my favorite church "holiday." I identify with the need for introspection and setting aside time to renew a relationship with God, even if I so often fail in my own attempts to do just that. Today I'm on ash duty - crossing the people who are coming to worship tonight. I'm a bit nervous, I want to remember my line, but more than that I am cautious about how my line will come across.
There have been times in my life when that phrase is a comfort to me. It can be an acknowledgement of our sinfulness, something I think we are so quick to forget. It is a universal statement, true of all of us, regardless of where we are in our lives and what are own struggles are at this point in our lives. It is an equalizer. It is a time to think of all of us on the same journey toward Easter, with the same need of Jesus' gifts to humanity. We all would fail to live up to our potential without Jesus' actions for our sake.
But there are also times when there is an immense void in those words. Those times when you are caught in your own problems in such away that you can't see a way out and you can't see a way in for God. When these times of emotional isolation come, this phrase does not seem universal but instead statement directed at us alone. It can come across as a condemnation from God directly.
But there remains hope, for the ashes on our forhead are not placed their haphazardly. Instead they are put in the form of a cross. Not only does it remind us of our own sinful nature and our universal human failings, it also reminds us that the ashes aren't the only cross we bear on our foreheads. For we have already been marked by the Cross of Christ. This cross we do not see so easily as our cross of ash, but the promises within it last longer than the ash upon our head. We are children of God through and in our baptism. We may be dust, but in the end we are dust chosen and loved by God. We are some lucky dust indeed.
In the spirit of Lent, I have picked my give up/take up list for the season. I had a lot of trouble coming up with this one. Selfishly, some things seemed too unrealistic and too hard. Others I felt too deeply to give up. But I think I've found a balance that will be challenging but not so hard that I resent taking these burdens on. In fact, I've already done the thing I'm giving up today but I'll start now and assume that God's grace can cover me for the morning. "Technically" I hadn't given it up yet.
Computer games, solitiare included. I should be much more productive at work, or blog a lot more, one of the two.
1. I'm going back to the gym. At least twice a week (I think I can start with that). We're at the point were we need to use it or lose the membership anyway, so this is a good one to do.
2. Cleaning. I'm going to actively clean for at least 15 minutes each day. This doesn't sound hard, but I anticipate that this could me the hardest one on the list.
Wish me luck. I'm feeling very meditative already for the season and hope that this Lent brings me closer to my God and my calling here at church. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest in all the trees and I really need to reconnect. I hope Lent can be a time of connection for all of you.
Almighty and ever-living God,
You hate nothing you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain for you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.