February 17, 2021
Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s the day that begins the liturgical Season of Lent. Lent is a time of introspection, prayer, and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Ash Wednesday launches the season with a day of confession, repentance, and commitment. If we were in-person we would light candles, sing hymns, pray prayers, and receive the “imposition of ashes” on our foreheads (or wrists). The ashes are a deeply spiritual symbol of letting go of what was, and remembering that we are not alone in our journeys. We are loved. We are held by God’s Presence. The traditional Ash Wednesday language uses the word “dust” to symbolize the precariousness of our existence, and it emphasizes the “rending” of garments which in Jewish culture is a sign of great sadness and mourning. Yes, it’s pretty heavy spiritual lifting!
I prefer emphasizing renewal on Ash Wednesday – and a commitment to journey through the Season of Lent with intentionality and prayerfulness. As I impose ashes on a person’s forehead I always say these words: “An ending and a beginning. You are marked in love.” The ending is what was. The beginning is what will be. There is much possibility in what will be. And there is mystery, and the unknown, and probably some angst about venturing forth into it. That’s where the second part comes in. “You are marked in love.” The ashes are a visible sign of the ever-present love of God. A visible sign of an invisible grace – that’s the definition of a sacrament!
While we can’t be physically together for Ash Wednesday this year I will offer you two ways to mark the day.
1. Join Moderator Richard Bott and the General Council staff for “A Litany of the Masks for Ash Wednesday.” This recorded video of the General Council chapel service offers a time for prayer, scripture, and will help us prepare for our Lenten spiritual practice. You’re invited to attend with a short piece of string or yarn (20 cm), or some Lego, or a string with seven beads, or a ribbon and seven buttons…and some glue! And please bring your mask. (You don’t need to wear it, but please bring it.)
It is available anytime on YouTube by clicking this link.
2. Join me tonight at 7:15 pm for a special Ash Wednesday edition of “Songs Along the Way.” It’s not a full Ash Wednesday service, but the song is very introspective, and the prayers are expanded to include the Ash Wednesday themes and imagery. (Still just 10 minutes long.) It is pre-recorded, but I’ve enabled the “live chat” feature for anyone who would like to be online together with me and others at 7:15 tonight.
You can access it at our Faith United YouTube channel anytime afterward as well.
One: May the blessing of God go with us
All: as we journey together in wonder.
One: May we trust in the Way of Christ
All: and walk in his peace.
One: Surely, God is in this place and every place!
All: On my Lenten journey, help me notice!