Lent and Holy Week
A couple of decades ago now, the Roman Catholic Church dropped Ash Wednesday services from their official services because it was not a specific day of remembrance but rather just the beginning of a season. Or maybe a Diocese did. Anyway, people flocked to our little parish to get their ashes. It was a packed service. But almost no one took communion.
This past Wednesday dozens of parishes around the country offered “Ashes-to-Go” stations around subway stations and bus terminals and on sidewalks. We did not.
Ash Wednesday and Lent are always in danger of becoming religious curios, odd mementos of a time and a faith that at one time made sense, but now seems anachronistic.
The church gives us these traditions of penance and mortality within a context of discipleship and community. I am not sure they make sense without it, like a gargoyle I have in my office that is part of an interesting story about a cathedral in France. Without the story it makes no visual sense.
Our practices of mortality and penance make sense if we are paying off offensive sins before an angry god who is waiting to destroy us in Hell. But that is not what Jesus taught. Our practices make sense if you want to be a better person and work harder at being good, and losing a little weight is not a bad side effect. But we are not about being better people.
We are ambassadors of a God who made the world in love and loves it still. That love is so great, and we are called to accept it, become a part of it, and make it known in our words and actions to others. And we failed and we fail. But that love restored us to God in the cross and resurrection and restores us even now.
We remember our mortality because we only have so long to do our work, to be faithful, to love God and others, and we have to decide what we will do with the time we have. We remember our sins and lament while we have time and can change and be a part of the everlasting kingdom of God.
We repent. We change our ways so that we can actually embody the love of God purely in our lives.
All of this is based in God’s love, God’s call, God’s faithfulness to us, God’s Spirit filling us and using us to do his work in the world.
If we put God first, Lent and Ash Wednesday make sense. But when it is about us, it can all be pretty destructive. That’s why communion is part of our Wednesday service, and it is why I don’t think Ashes-t0-Go is such a great idea.
We come to stand before a love so great it bows us down in a holy Lent.
Coming this Week: A New Bishop
Over coffee with the soon-to-be-the-Right-Reverend Jennifer Reddall she said that her primary mission is to make God known in love of others. That is a great place to begin her ministry among us.
She will be ordained a bishop at the Church of the Nations on Saturday 9 March 2019.
Let us pray for our new Bishop, our Diocese, and God’s will.