Ash Wednesday

Tonight I knelt in a beautiful church, closed my eyes, and felt fingers brushing dry ashes on my forehead in the sign of a cross. These words were whispered to me: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

So begins another season of Lent. For some reason, this night the ashes felt friendly as they touched my skin.  Hearing the word “dust” reminded me of a playground on a hot summer day, spinning on a merry go round and seeing clouds of dust swirl as my friends jumped on and off. Kicking the dirt with my bare feet as I sat in a swing. Remembering that dust comes from dirt, from the good earth. And that one day, that good earth will again hold me and everyone I know and love.

We heard the words from Isaiah, chapter 58:

“Is this not the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in darkness and your gloom be like noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

And from Matthew, chapter 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I am called this night to remember my visit to the Holy Land two years ago. A friend of mine is visiting there now, and as I see her pictures on Facebook, I am reminded of how it felt to sit in the dark Judean desert waiting for sunrise. The light always comes in time. 

And so my prayer this night:

May we aspire to be called “the repairer of the breach” for indeed our world overflows with breaches. May this season of Lent make our hearts tender for the sake of all God’s people. May we breathe in peace with every step, and in our hearts and in our souls may we know always and only grace, apparent grace.