Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The years have a way of slipping by causing us to forget exactly when some things began. Offering Ash Wednesday worship to a community of believers is one such thing. I can remember the first place I led such a moment of worship, but the exact year has slipped away. At least 15 years or more would be a good guess. Tonight there was one more.
It always leaves me overwhelmed with what we have shared together as pastor and people. There is no moment quite like it. One at a time folks come to receive the imposition of ashes. There is that moment when intimacy is experienced as we share each other's space. While some close their eyes, others come with eyes wide open as if to search the heart of the man who touches them with ashes. It always strikes me as a strange and powerful moment. Before me are people I have come to know these six years, people who have come to know me, people with whom I have shared all kinds of struggles and joys. Before me are people whom I have come to love and to whom I want to say the encouraging and hopeful word. Yet, tonight as each came I marked their foreheads with ashes, and said, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."
What I said was, "Remember, you are going to die." It is a sobering moment to repeat these words over and over to one person after another after another. Some are very old. Some are still children being led forward by the hand of a parent. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our need to repent so that we can live well what is left of our life. It speaks a powerful word about our human mortality. And, yes, it always makes me look forward to Easter Sunday when I can boldly declare that though we die, yet shall we live, because Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thanks be to God!