Tag Archives: lent

To Dust You Will Return

From last week. Happy Lent everyone.

 

Good morning. Here we are a couple weeks into Lent. This year Lent kind of snuck up on me. Sort of literally. A week and a half ago I was at an ice cream parlor with some students after a tour of the capital. Yes, Central Dairy. And a woman walked in with a scruffy looking swastika tattoo on her forehead. “Bad life choice much?” I thought, or something equally snarky. Then I noticed that her young son had one as well. Good grief! Now I really got judgey. “White power parent of the year. Dip into your meth fund for that little beauty?” As my mind prepared the next zinger, it came to me that it was Ash Wednesday. Oh. Right. And I sat there quietly eating my ice cream and feeling small.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of lent and is observed by a brief service where ashes are, usually in the sign of the cross, smeared onto the forehead, a reminder of where we come from and where we are headed. Then 40 days of preparation for Easter, generally associated with Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. I also learned in my bit of research that it’s not just the Catholics and Episcopalians any more, but many denominations, even baptists, smearing ashes. And not just in church, but on street corners, subway stations, and in cars at intersections waiting for stop lights. And, Ash Wednesday is a service that the Catholic Church makes available to everyone–Protestant, Islam, Hindu, atheist, even those excommunicated from the church, are welcome at Ash Wednesday.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

I’ve talked about lent before and the importance of self examination and self denial and remembering Jesus’s time of temptation. But not Ash Wednesday. And while the Ash Wednesday service is one of my favorites and I’m sorry I missed it this year, I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me. What does it mean? And why is it that this ancient ritual about our mortality is gaining popularity, not just in the church, but on the street corner?

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Is there some comfort to be taken in that? When we’re sad and discouraged and tired. We are all of us in the same boat. Catholics and Protestants; Muslims and atheists; people on the street and people in the pew; mothers who take their kids to church and then out for ice cream, and judgmental school teachers. We are all here for a brief time, and then we’re gone. And that’s the way it’s always been.

This morning as we prepare for communion, in this time of lent, of preparation for Easter Sunday, let us not hurry past the fact that we worship a god who for a time dwelt among us, who was at times sad and discouraged and tired, and who, like all those who came before and after him, died. And let’s not race to resurrection Sunday, but instead take some time and sit with what it means to follow a god who is not just waiting for us at the end of our journey, but a god who is with us when we’re weary, when we’re lost, when we’re in church and when we swear we’ll never go back, when we’re at our best and our worst, a god who loves us all the same, regardless of who or where we are.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Amen.

Why are you still talking?

This is from Lent last year. I’m just a grouch some days.

 

It’s the start of lent, something that I try to pay attention to, even when it sneaks up on me like it did this year. So this year I have those things I’m taking on, and those things I’m taking a break from, as I prepare for Easter.  And during this first week of lent, I’ve about decided that one of the things I’m giving up, is people.  Not really.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  I had one of those weeks.  Admittedly, I’m not a social person on the best of days.  My standard setting is, people: I can take ‘em or leave ‘em.  But this week I could definitely leave ‘em.  All those snarky t-shirts that kids wear that say things like, “Why are you still talking, I quit listening hours ago?”  That’s how I felt all week.  I mean, Jesus took 40 days in the desert, right.  Maybe that’s what I needed to do.  Although this week, that wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice.

And while Jesus did spend his time in the desert, and some time praying alone; and while we do see him frustrated and angry at times with those around him, his mission it seems, much to my chagrin, was about people.  He spent much of this ministry with his close group of friends.  He invited himself to people’s homes.  He ate and drank with outcasts.  His first public miracle was at a wedding (shudder).

Even on the cross, when I imagine what that would be like, I think about the men on either side of him arguing and cajoling him, and I want to say, after trying to ignore the both of them, “Look, this has been a really bad day; I feel like crap; in fact, we’re all going to be dead pretty soon anyway; so I would really appreciate it if you two could just shut up!”

That’s me.  Not Jesus.  He, tortured and dying, engages the two of them.  At least one of them entered the kingdom that day.

Lent is a time of contemplation and introspection.  And there are times to take a break from things.  But even when Jesus took his 40 days in the desert, he came back.  And he participated in life with people–annoying, frustrating, “Please don’t interrupt me while I’m ignoring you” t-shirt kind of people.  Yeah, I know, people like me.

So when you take the bread and the cup, you might do this.  Pray for me.  And pray for those who are on your last nerve.  And pray that all of us can be there for those that need us, even when we’re tired and worn out and not in the mood.  And maybe say thanks that god does the same for us.

Amen.

Lent and Community

I think this one comes from March of ’06.  This is back when I was playing online poker on a very regular basis.  The two prayers at the end are not mine.  My guess is they are from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, or from some site Google pointed me too.

 

Today is the first Sunday in Lent.  Lent, which originated in the very earliest days of the church is, among other things, a time of self examination leading up to Easter.  It is a time to take a look at what is important in our lives, and what’s not.  I often find when I do this, that what I would claim is important to me, isn’t getting a lot of my time and energy.   And those things that I do spend time and energy on, aren’t necessarily the things that I would brag about.

So I try to take some time this time of the year to set some things straight in my life.  I’d like scriptures to come as easily to mind as do the odds of drawing to an open ended straight.  I’d like to love the driver in front of me, instead of wanting to make him pay dearly for his traffic sins.  And I’d like my prayers to be as enthusiastic as my exclamations when I smack my knee on the corner of the desk.  Needless to say, I have some work to do.

Fortunately Christ has been there.  He knows what I’m going through.  He knows what we all go through, every day.  And remembering this helps.  Maybe that’s why Jesus said, when we sit down to communion together, he wanted us to remember him and what he did for us on the cross.  So that we could know that we’re not alone.  We have each other.  And we have Christ.

 

Almighty God,

I am not asking to overcome my weakness,

but to use it in some way to glorify you.

Let me be aware of

the many ways you reach out to help me today

and let me stand in awe of the power

that you use in such loving ways.

 

Almighty God,

your Son Jesus Christ

fasted forty days in the wilderness,

and was tempted as we are but did not sin.

Give us grace to discipline ourselves

in obedience to your Spirit;

and, as you know our weakness,

so may we know your power to save;

through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen.