Ash Wednesday. DUST from day 1 of Lent. Are you doing something religious?

DUST from Day 1 of Lent.  Are you doing something religious?

A

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and I went to a local service. It’s what I call ‘High Church’, the serious service my Bible church raise sons moan is the up-down, up-down recite, recite, recite. But it’s where I grew up and it feels like home to me even though I’ve never been to Trinity Lutheran before. This church has been in the cultural district of downtown Fort Worth for 70 years.  The building has that sixties feeling about it in the Googie architecture style, showcasing a high up swept triangular roof, curvaceous outings paired with geometric shapes and the bold use of glass, steel and neon colors. The stain glass is a tide-dyed ombre of colors that’s picked up in the altar cloths embroidery on purple and the baptismal has doves, shells and fire carved into its wood like the iconic symbols I’ve seen on old peace posters.  And there are candles, waiting to be lit and I wait, still and silent, inviting Spirit to speak to my spirit.

The entrance of the Cross arrives where the congregation stands as if a bride were coming down the aisle and yet it is our Bridegroom. His golden cross bore up in tender hands of a teenage acolyte. Light shines from the candles now and we stand for the confession of sins, a convicting list of self-indulgences I agreed I had done and then those commands I had neglected to do. My response, “Have mercy on us, O God.”  I was invited for the imposition of ashes; kneeling at the altar the mark of the cross was applied to my forehead with the just words from Genesis 3:19, “Remember, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” I feel solemn and want to stay at the altar and pray but there’s a line behind me so I rise and sit and meditate, because today is just this-

Remember. You are Dust. Dust.

I stop trying to move ahead to the propitiation and resurrection, to the amazing grace and powerful love that transform me and stay here in Ash Wednesday. The readings are from Isaiah and Matthew reminding us of the fasting God requires and a caution to beware public piety. I smile, looking at the bold dark mark on the pastor’s forehead-our ‘religion’ couldn’t be more public today and the Homily asked the question I’m thinking, “Are you doing something religious today?” I ask myself that and know mysteriously that doctrine and experience are working out something very spiritual in my heart. These ashes placed on me have a meaning.

Remember.

I was remembering with a deep respect for my roots in the faith that came from “high church”.  I was reorienting my soul in this season of life that was grieving things from the past, old ways of family life and ministry, still disoriented with new ways of empty nesting and life without teaching and limited fellowships. Scattered again God had steadily been gathering my spirit like a pot over fire about to boil and today, Ash Wednesday, I spent the day remembering.

Remember. You are Dust. Dust.

You are Dust. Dust. Finite. Frail. Fragile. Failing.
Dust. Gathered. Scattered.
Dust. Formed. Reformed.
Dust. Pruned. Protected.
Dust. Dying. As we were meant to do. Dead to self. Alive to Christ.
Dust. Returning to our place. In the Potter’s baptizing hands, dust becomes washed, wet, reborn.
Clay.Purposefully crafted. An empty vessel. Filled. Water. Light. Love.
Meant to overflow. Not indulge itself. Inwardly or outwardly.
Remember now. Me you keep on following. Abide in me. Spirit filled. you are fruit. you overflow.

There was a prayer; Merciful God, we return to you. Accompany our journey through these 40 days. Renew us that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence and above all find our treasure in the life of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a blessing given: Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint hearted and hurting; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people; love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Remember. You are Dust. Dust.

Want to learn more, read The Honor series, parables about honoring God expressed by J.L. Kelly.

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