Thursday, March 6, 2014
No doubt yesterday's suggestion seemed rather strange. Sitting in front of a mirror for five minutes repeating our own name and the Ash Wednesday words of imposition is not exactly an uplifting experience. Saying, "(Name), remember you are dust and to dust you shall return," in such a manner is both uncomfortable and disturbing. It simply is not the kind of thing we attend worship expecting to hear. Looking into the eyes of a pastor or priest at very close range and hearing them tell us we are going to die is indeed an unusual moment of worship.
Only in the church can you get that kind of raw honesty. Of course, we all know we are going to die. You know, someday. Not anytime soon. You know, after the children bring home grandchildren and we become ancient. Dying? One day, yes, but not anytime soon. We live nurturing such foolishness. We need to be jolted. We need to be reminded in a painfully personal way that our life is very fragile. Only in the safety of the church where resurrection power is also preached do we dare allow someone with spiritual authority to tell us that we are not going to live on this earth forever. Actually, though it may be many years, it is also just a few days.
We cannot rightly live without the Ash Wednesday words. Allowing them to settle into our souls causes us to look seriously at what we are declaring to be the priorities of our life. Hearing them causes us to recognize what is given value in our living. Meditating on the words makes us come to terms with what or who we really worship. Unless we look at our life through the lens of our mortality, we are likely to make the journey a wasted trip. It may be a painful process, but it can also be a life changing moment as well as a life saving one.