A Modest Proposal: a 'kinder, gentler' Lent
Years ago, at a St. John's, Waterbury staff meeting prior to Lent, I suggested that we might consider “a kinder, gentler Lent”.
The two other clergy people were horrified at the suggestion. The six lay members of the staff thought it was a good idea. Ponder that.
I am not someone who responses well to 'guilt'. I don't feel guilty about much of anything. I certainly don't need to grovel in my unrighteousness. When I do something that hurts someone else, I genuinely try to apologize and ask forgiveness and am humbled when I am forgiven. But I don't dwell on the bad stuff I do. I try to clean it up and move on. I don't dwell on the negative stuff of life.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Which always makes me think of the children's nursery rhyme:
Ring-around the rosie,
Pocket full of Posies,
Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.
Do you realize that harmless little rhyme, that can be danced to with the kids falling down at the end and laughing, is about the Black Plague? Apparently one of the first signs of plague was a circular rose-colored irritation on the skin. The pockets of the clothing of plague victims were filled with flowers to try to overcome the stench. Finally, the undeniable truth that we are, after all, dust and ashes and we will die, we will die.
That's half of Ash Wednesday's wisdom, We will die, we will die. We are, after all, dust and ashes and we will, each of us, all of us, return to that state. I sometimes tremble when I administer the ashes on that day. “Remember, my friend, you are dust and to dust you will return....” What solemn, sober and grave words. And true, true ultimately.
But that is only half of Ash Wednesday's wisdom. The other half comes when we are called to the Table to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We are called to the Table to remember, also, that we are the shining children of God, just a little lower than the angels, created in the “image and likeness” of God.
I have a big old raincoat. Ash Wednesday reminds me of that coat. My coat has two deep pockets. On Ash Wednesday, one is filled with ashes, dust, humus, dirt—that is part of who I am, who you are.
And the other pocket is filled with moon light and star-dust and wonder and magic and the fact that I am, you are, shining children of God, just a little lower than the angels, the very 'visage' of God, 'image and likeness'.
That's what makes me want to have a 'kinder, gentler' Lent. That's who we are too, not just dust and ashes and guilt and sinfulness—the very Children of God, loved to death by God, loved to life by God. Loved and Loved and Loved again....
Join your congregational family on Ash Wednesday to be reminded to remember 'who we are'--dust and ashes surely, not doubt about it...but glittering, shining, wondrous, much loved creatures as well...invited to the Supper of the Lamb, a special spot reserved at the Table, the best spot of all, blindingly loved and honored and accepted and included.
Let's remember that part during Lent instead of beating ourselves up. Let's remember how loved and cared for we are. Let's remember God is the One who loves us best of all, just as we are, just as we were created.
That's what I want to be reminded of this Lent—how much God loves each of us and all of us.
Join me in pondering that Love, that Love, that wondrous, incomprehensible Love.....
Happy Lent! (Is that a crazy thing to say....probably...but I say it none-the-less....)