Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

I love Lent.

It's the most visceral of the liturgical seasons; the one I most readily feel in my bones. I love how I have the opportunity to connect with Christ on every level of my being--mind, body, and spirit--through the study, ritual, and reflection that characterizes Lent. There's something about Lent that forces me to STOP and BE and FEEL and UNDERSTAND that the craziness of secular Christmas and the busyness of Advent don't allow.

This is also why I make sure that our services involve some participatory ritual as often as possible.

This year for our Ash Wednesday worship service, we reflected on

where are you divided?


where are you being killed?

At the beginning of worship, we set out a paper person at the entrance.

This is you. Or me. Or an enemy. Or a friend.
As people arrived, we invited them to tear off a piece of the person and write on their piece the things that are dividing them, what is literally tearing them apart. Self-doubt, busyness, stress, work, whatever. For the record, this is what happens when a person is divided again and again and again:

Remember that you are dust...
Later in the service, we invited people to bring their pieces up to the cross and think about the things that are killing them. Then, they took those things and offered them up to God by pinning them to the cross.

Mine is the one the farthest to the left.

I know this isn't necessarily a revolutionary or innovative ritual (I've seen similar ones done before), but I was still moved by it. I was particularly struck by how difficult it was for people to get their pushpins into the cross--it was a hardwood, so people literally struggled to give up the things that were dividing and killing them to God. How often do we find it difficult to give up those things--the responsibilities, the habits, the worries--that destroy us? Isn't that what Lent is about: figuring out how to turn away from those things so that we can follow Jesus, ultimately to the foot of the cross? It's never as easy as we might imagine or wish it to be.

What really blessed me tonight (what always blesses me as a pastor during these rituals) was the fact that I was able to be there with each of these people as they did their best to give their burdens up to God. Some confidently strode up to the cross and were able to pin the paper on immediately. Others were clearly determined, but struggled before they were able to be successful. Most profound were the ones who knew they needed help: some reluctantly after several attempts, others without hesitation, knowing themselves and their limits. And I was grateful to be the person there to help them all. Likewise, I was grateful to know that there are people there to help me should I need it. That's why we live in community. It's a gift that God has given us. I was grateful to share visibly and physically in my humanity, my mortality, and my brokenness this Ash Wednesday: in our struggle to repent and turn to God, we are most certainly not alone.


On an unrelated note, I learned today that Andrew and I are both Type-A ash imposers. Every cross I saw was impeccable. Our ash game was on POINT.

Okay, so maybe I still need to work on that humility thing...

No comments:

Post a Comment