Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ash Wednesday Reflections
These holy days are gifts. Days steeped in ritual and marked with symbolism to help me face the unthinkable: I will die someday. Like alarms set on my phone to remind me of meetings and appointments, they sound a warning: you have to die someday. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." And there, in the injunction to remember and return, I find the boundaries of my life in the bookends of All Saints and Ash Wednesday. All Saints calls me to remember, to stop and revisit those who have gone on before me; to recall those I miss, those I loved, and those I never want to forget; to remember that I belong to a community that transcends liner time. In years to come, it will call others to remember, long after I am gone. Some of them will remember me.
The other boundary, Ash Wednesday, enjoins me to return: to return to dust, but also to "Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. . ." I return to the one who made me from dust in the first place. I return to the one who loves me steadfastly across all borders of time and space and who loves me enough to have voluntarily gone where I fear to go: to death.
Ash Wednesday rightfully marks the beginning of the Lenten journey. Without contemplating my own death, I can be tempted to minimize the love that was shown to me in Jesus' death. It is in facing my own fear of death that I come to appreciate all that follows. And so I return, year after year, to have ashes imposed on my forehead; to look in the mirror and see myself marked for death, and then journey with Jesus as he steadfastly walks toward his own death, for me.Only from that visceral place can I fully appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made and the magnificence of his resurrection.
This entry was originally written for Triumphant Love Lutheran's annual Lenten devotional and is based on the one of the texts for this day Joel 2:1-2, 12-17