Ash Wednesday

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We didn't mark Ash Wednesday at Sunset this year, but I know other congregations did.  Sometimes its helpful to remind ourselves or find out for the first time what it is we are marking when we set aside days like Ash Wednesday... I stumbled across this brief video from the United Methodist Church video series "Chuck Knows Church" which kind of breaks down what it is we do when we are marked with a cross made from the ashes of last years palm branches.

Chuck Knows Church - Ash Wednesday

This coming Sunday, we will explore the story of Jesus in the Wilderness, which as the video points out is the basis for our forty day Lenten journey.  While Ash Wednesday is not Biblically based, this ritual of preparation has become an important in centering minds and hearts for the work of Lent.  It's interesting to me to read accounts on my FaceBook page today of friends being marked with ashy crosses and of ministry colleagues in various cities and denominations going out into the streets to offer "Ashes to Go."  Folk who wouldn't normally make the time to attend a formal Ash Wednesday service, willingly stop in the street to very publically be reminded of their mortality ("From ashes we were created, to ashes we will return).  In this kind of public marking, one opens oneself to questions and quizzical looks... you can't hide the fact that there is a dark cross smudged across your forehead.  So, it opens the door for conversation.  It also opens us up to finding ways to put what it is that we do and why we do it into words, words that convey meaning to those who may or may not be of our faith tradition or path.

This morning I didn't give the fact that it was Ash Wednesday much thought.  I was heading out to help out with the boy's class field trip to the Sask Musuem and was pondering the chaos I had signed up for... When I got home, however, the images of the crosses on my friends and colleagues had my heart pining for this ritual, for this public sign of my getting ready for Lent, of my getting ready to hunker down and open my heart to the moving of the Spirit during these days on increased prayer and spiritual practice.  These forty days can and do offer us the opportunity to look at our own repentance (remembering that to repent means to turn around, to change direction), and see where it is that we need to turn around so that our sights are set on the presence of the Holy in our lives.  As we stand at this period of taking on or letting go, maybe we can take the time to wander in our own wildernesses, in those places that are not necessarily comfortable or easy to be in so that we might see in a new or different way.  I wonder if we could spend some of our time in the next forty days being open to hearing the wildnerness places of our friends, family and co-workers, while offering words of encouragement and love as they seek to find places to turn around in their journey.

I leave these words with you, written by Robin McGauley, a friend and colleague.

Dust to all that is wrong
Dust to my participation
Dust to what I need to unlearn
Dust to my white fragility need for culture of humility
Dust to my critical judgements that reveal my own wounded need for healing
Dust to the shame response shrinking me to invisibility
Dust to my not doing enough, not speaking up, not reaching out
Dust to the hurt that bubbled over and became the mess that tore us apart
Dust to my overworking, goal oriented, overachieving, busy, busy, busy, too busy for meaningful connection, busy as a way to keep you at a distance, business.
Dust to systemic systems that systematize the permission for entitled bad behaviour
Dust to the thought I just had that I am so clever
Dust to our mind-numbing, Netflix watching, Sabbath wilderness needing avoiding, chocolate, coffee, drug of choice consuming, body, mind, spirit blah feeling
Dust to all that is
Dust until we are all at one again with transformative beautiful Dust