I cannot express how happy I am that we will be able to have an in-person Ash Wednesday service this year (Wednesday, March 2 at 7 p.m.). More than any other service of the year, this one is tactile. I want to feel ashes on my forehead. I long to place ashes on the foreheads and/or hands of others.
In fact, this is my favorite worship service of the church year. I need this yearly reminder of my mortality, my fragility, my imperfection. We will be offering online worship (it will premiere at 6 p.m.) but if you are feeling comfortable being in a well-ventilated space with everyone wearing masks, consider attending the in-person service.
However you choose to worship, Ash Wednesday is the best place to begin the 40 day season of Lent. This year our theme, our goal is to have a Good Enough Lent. Our guide is Kate Bowler, best-selling author, podcaster, and seminary professor who is living with stage four cancer. This is what Kate writes about Ash Wednesday.
In a world which prizes self-affirmation, confidence, and pride, Ash Wednesday comes as a slap in the face, a bracing cold shower of reality. Inescapably, we are told of our lingering weaknesses, faults, and helplessness. We are, apparently, not such big shots after all. On this night, our mortality is literally rubbed in our faces.
…We stand before our pastor and those hands which have, on other days, fed us the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper now smear a rough cross on our foreheads with the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This beautiful and humbling ritual is perhaps the clearest statement that we will ever hear about our status as temporary. Humans are such transient and fragile beings, so unnecessary to the functioning of the universe. Our presence is precarious. We will search in vain for any guarantees of our continued health, future success, or, even, the promise of tomorrow.
Fortunately, we have a God who loves us and, for some divine mystery, values our presence. Let us then use these next 40 days to learn to lean on the One who keeps us around and prepare for the majesty, terror, and mystery of Easter Week.
Click here to learn more about small groups shaped around her latest book, Good Enough: 40ish Devotions for a Life of Imperfection. I hope to see you on Ash Wednesday!
What has been your experience of Ash Wednesday? How might a reminder of our mortality help us live our lives with more intentionality and joy?
-Written by Rev. Amy Miracle
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