I wear no ashes on my brow today. It’s the first church service that I really miss after leaving my first call. Ash Wednesday–and heck, the whole season of Lent and Holy Week–falls in my minor-key-loving sweet spot. You want theology of the cross? It’s right at home here. You want a faith tempered by the true and the troubled? I can hold that space. Give me those ashes and let me name the ways that brokenness is so deeply imbedded.
At GLC our service was a creative expression of the minor key of Lent. Music, scripture, and liturgy. Ben Kyle, Gungor, and Leonard Cohen (via Jeff Buckley) fit right in between honest hymns of repentance and reflection. The readings held space in different quadrants of the liturgy. The reconciliation text of 2 Corinthians 5 following the confession and imposition of ashes. Psalm 51 woven in with [Broken] Hallelujah after Ben Kyle’s Mercy. Matthew 6 was read as a sending (because we had obviously just been practicing our piety very publicly in worship).
That time has passed. That service and that place will never come together again for me. I miss it and the people who carried it together as a body. Leaving felt like I was closing a whole chapter in the book of my life, leaving me a chapter closer toward my own ending. It was time. It was the right chapter break and this next one…it’s going to be really incredible. But still…
I wear no ashes on my brow today. Instead I’m at home with a tired and under-the-weather toddler as the descent towards dreams–measured by toddled steps around living room–counts down.
She sleeps now, with a snore. And I’m left in the dim of the screen to ponder life, death, ashes–or the lack thereof. In the back of my mind creeps today’s reading from Isaiah 58
3“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers… 5Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Maybe today isn’t all about that ash. Maybe Ash Wednesday isn’t about humbling ourselves and recognizing our own inevitabilities, turning inward to our hamartia (fatal flaw). Maybe it is about turning from the ashes that are part of our very creation and into new creation, reconciled with its brokenness, poured out for that altogether needy neighbor.
Ashes would be easier.
I am dust, and to dust I will return. And God makes beautiful things out of dust.