2/17/2010 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - Ash Wednesday

posted May 21, 2010, 6:54 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:54 PM by Terry Brady ]
February 17, 2010
The Rev. Susan N. Blue

Let us pray:

Jesus, you place on my forehead the sign of my sister Death: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
How not hear her wise advice? One day my life on earth will end; he limits on my years are set, though I know not the day or hour. Shall I be ready to go meet you? Let this holy season be a time of grace for me and the entire world.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” O Jesus, you place on my forehead the sign of your saving Cross: “Turn from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

How can I turn from sin unless I turn to you?
You speak, you raise your hand, you touch my mind and call my name. “Turn to the Lord your God again.”

These days of your favor leave a blessing as you pass on me and all your people. Turn to us, Lord God, and we shall turn to you. AMEN

(Ash Wednesday Prayer by Victor Hoagland, C.P.; Synthesis 2/17. 2010)

The ashes placed on our foreheads this day are a reminder of our mortality and, as the prayer said, they challenge us as individuals and as a community to stop for a bit, to remember whose we are and who we are called to be. We shall not live forever, so what will we do in the meantime to be ready to meet our all loving God? We are given the grace of the forty days of Lent, forty days during which we share with Jesus his time in the desert. That time was marked by fasting, temptation, examination and prayer.
Fasting does not necessarily involve food; for we can fast from unhealthy feelings, thoughts and practices. The Gospel is clear that Jesus was not terribly concerned about people following the letter of the law, though he had great respect for said law. No, he was deeply concerned about matters of the heart. These forty days of Lent are a gift to all Christians, a time to stop, to pray, in order to prepare for the joy of the Paschal Feast.
We use this time well when we begin with a rigorous self-evaluation followed by penitence and repentance. We are called to forgiveness of others and of ourselves. The resultant new beginnings then move us toward wholeness. This is a time of quiet, of prayer and worship, so that when Easter comes we, like the early Christians baptized on Easter Eve, are clothed in new garments, the garments of a forgiven people: refreshed, reborn and full of joy.
Dr. Barry Johnson gave a sermon in 1988 that talked about true spirituality. The first quality of spirituality is that we must simply believe God. First and foremost we believe that God is, that God loves us abundantly and will not leave us. It does not necessarily mean that we believe all that the church professes, but simply that God is …now and forever.
The second quality is that of humility. Accepting the love and abundance we are given knowing that it was unearned and has nothing to do with anything we have done. It is the nature of our loving God, not our striving and or our great works.
Third, we are called to a perpetual air of forgiveness; forgiving others on an on-going basis with the knowledge that we desperately need the on-going forgiveness of our God and of one another.
Finally, Johnson says, true spirituality is “remarkably liquid.” It is always adjusting, constantly growing and happy to wade about in a world of gray. It is having the ability to measure what we have been thought over and against that which is newly appearing in the on-going creation of the world. It is living without rigidity and judgment of others. We are to understand that there are no perfect or eternal answers other than our call to love God.
(Dr. Barry L. Johnson; First Community Church; 5/8/1988)

There is a story told by David Redding in his book The Golden String. It seems the author had a very loving, big, black, Scottish Shepherd dog by the name of Teddy. The two were inseparable. The hiked together, Teddy slept by his bed, and was a superb watchdog. Several months later David was drafted into the army. Trying to help his loving animal understand why he was leaving was impossible. k He returned home for the first time several months later. It was a long walk from the bus stop and he arrived very late at night. Suddenly he heard his watch dog, Teddy, barking. All it took was one whistle from David, and Teddy came bounding toward him with a yelp of recognition. The delighted animal leaped into his arms, whimpering with joy and covering David’s face with kisses. (Copied and abridged)

As Johnson says, “Love is like that, it reaches across the barriers of time and distance to embrace the soul and welcome the weary traveler home.” (Copied) If a dog can show such love, just imagine the abundant love God has for each one of us as we are welcomed home this Lenten season. Have a most blessed Lent. AMEN