I have a love/hate relationship with Ash Wednesday.
I love Ash Wednesday because of the memories of unexpected joy and humor of previous years: a colleague who whispered for me to lift my bangs so he could places ashes on my forehead, or the year three congregations gathered together in a festive mood, only to have the mood quickly change with the somber reality of why were gathered, or the joy of watching young children watch as the cross is traced on their forehead.
And, there are years I do not like Ash Wednesday. At all.
I don't like it because no matter how far in advance I try to look ahead, or begin to prepare, this day arrives with a sense of catching me off guard and never being fully prepared.
I didn't want Ash Wednesday to come this year. In fact, I wanted to, tried to avoid it, pretend even that it wasn't on the calendar. But I couldn't, and I can't. It's here, placing us on the beginning of another Lenten journey, and moving closer towards the cross of Christ.
Ash Wednesday this year comes against the background of so much going on in the world: effects of a lingering pandemic on multiple fronts, war in Ukraine and other places around the world, global warming, climate change, and so much more. The heaviness of these concerns mixes with the weight of Ash Wednesday, and why it is we hold this day meaningful. It also provided opportunity to rant and vent to God: Do we really need one more reminder of our mortality?
The answer that always returns is "Yes" -- and here's why.
Through the centuries, the Church has endured moments of uncertainty, and times of conflict. In these times, it has also provided strength, comfort, assurance, and hope. The Church reminds us, too, of the reality we profess in the Creeds: the hope and the promise of the resurrection and the new life we have in Jesus.
We need this day -- again -- to remind us -- and ground us as we begin our Lenten journey:
to turn our hearts back to God through prayer and repentance.
to admit and recognize the attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, practices and thoughts that prevent us from fully loving our neighbors as ourselves.
to be a better neighbor to the poor, homeless, refugee, hungry, addicted, lonely, or the forgotten in our communities.
to turn our very lives back to God, the Creator, who turned nothing into something, and in turning nothing into something, declared everything to be good.
This declaration of everything being good includes every one of us.
Normally, we don't think of dust as being good. It can -- and does -- tickle our noses and make our eyes dry and scratchy. Yet dust and dirt -- common elements were used by Jesus to bring healing.
If Jesus can do that with dust and dirt, how much more can and will Jesus do that for us?
As we begin a new season of Lent, may it be a time of turning back to God with all our hearts. In this turning back to God, may there be reminders of being dust of the earth, made in goodness.
Pastor Traci Glover