Today is Ash Wednesday. We had a wonderful service at St. Andrew's sitting around four huge tables pushed together and passing the bread and wine to each other. Today I'd thought I'd post two things--a message I sent to the members of the three Cluster churches I serve and (because the weather postponed church Sunday (the Last Sunday of Epiphany) I'm attaching a 14 year old sermon for that Sunday that I like...."Happy Ash Wednesday...."
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
full of Posies,
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
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
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
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....)
Packing for the journey 1/25/01 (St. John's,
hardest part of any journey is NOT “the beginning” or “the
middle” or “the end.”
hardest part of any journey is BEFORE “the beginning”. Somebody
has to pack the bags….
at that awkward “Before the beginning”
part of the long journey of Lent. This Sunday is the Last Sunday
After the Epiphany. On Shrove Tuesday we’ll have a farewell dinner
and on Ash Wednesday we’ll set off on our journey. Today is the
hardest part. Today we have to pack the bags….
Gospel reading for this last Sunday before Lent is always the story
of Jesus’ Transfiguration. The Transfiguration event takes place on
a mountain top, far above the concerns and needs in the valley below.
Jesus is joined miraculously by Moses and Elijah who represent “the
Law and the Prophets”—the gathering of the core of Judaism.
what are they talking about—Moses and Elijah and Jesus? Luke tells
us they “were speaking of his departure, which he was about to
accomplish at Jerusalem.” Jesus is on the mountain-top “before
the beginning” of his journey to Jerusalem and the Cross.
and Elijah are helping Jesus pack his bags….
disciples are not ready to go to Jerusalem. They are full on anxiety
about what lies ahead. Jesus has been hinting that betrayal and
suffering await him in Jerusalem. The disciples don’t want to go.
Peter says to Jesus, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE. LET US MAKE THREE
DWELLINGS—ONE FOR YOU, ONE FOR MOSES AND ONE FOR ELIJAH….
didn’t understand. A cloud overshadows the disciples, some of the
fog that occasions mountain-tops, and they are terrified. Their fear
was well-founded. Before the journey’s end they would face many
dangers. No wonder they wanted to stay put on the mountain.
Jesus is ready. His bags are packed and he’s ready to go.
we are baptizing three children. Jacob, Austin and Tiffany are
setting out on the journey of life. And before they depart, we will
help them pack their bags. Through water and oil we will proclaim
they are loved by God and “marked as Christ’s own forever.”
will go with them through the years and decades ahead. Whatever
dragons they must pass, whatever dangers they may encounter, whatever
fears may grip them…they will not travel alone. God goes with them.
Even when they feel they are by themselves, God goes
Even when those who love them cannot protect them, God
goes with them.
Even when they experience life as a desert, filled with
wild beasts, God goes with them.
we will pack their bags full of the love of God and the grace of
Christ. They’re almost ready to go.
Jacob and Austin and Tiffany depart, so must we. We will gather
around the Table on the Mountain Top and take be refreshed by the
Life of God. But we cannot stay here. The world waits for us outside
those doors. It is a sometimes frightening, confusing, lonely world.
But it is the world God loves, and we do not journey alone.
Wilderness of Lent awaits our footfalls. We must pack our bags with
Love and face the wild beasts there. It is almost time. Soon we must
before then, some bread and some wine to remind us we are never
alone…some water and some oil to remind us we are “marked as
Christ’s own forever.”
is the “getting ready time”. This is the time before
the Beginning. This is the “bag packing”
time. Then we’ll be ready for where the road may lead us and what
the journey will hold.
it’s time to go, we’ll be ready….Amen.