Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, 2017

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season which carries us toward Easter.  It provides a unique worship opportunity in most liturgically minded churches.  Those who participate in today's service of worship will leave with a black smudge mark on their forehead.  The black smudge will be in the form of a cross.  It is not the wearing of it that is difficult for us, but the being marked.  Standing close enough to see the eye balls of the clergy marking us, we will clearly hear the most unusual words spoken to us in all the Sundays of going to worship.  "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."   No, "Good evening, how are you?"  None of that.  Just a word telling us we are going to die.
What is the point?  What is this all about?  Is it not true that worship is supposed to make us feel better?  How can we feel better if someone looks us in the eyes, marks us with a smudged cross, and tells us we are going to die?  For some it is too much.  It is depressing.  It is too much reality.  Many just stay away.  Who wants to hear such a word?  Who really needs to be told they are going to die? 
The truth is we all do.  We live as if life is unending.  We live as if tomorrow is a guarantee.  Living with such a premise underneath us gives us permission to live as we are not permitted to live if we take seriously the truth that life is both fragile and measureable.  A walk through any cemetery should be reminder enough that our stay on this earth is not measured in forever and ever, but in days and years.   At least once a year it is a good thing for someone to speak this truth to us for most of the time, we are far too careless with the days allotted to us.  So hear it still once more.  "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." 

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