Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ash Wedneday, the First Day of Lent

At the Ash Wednesday Eucharist, Pastor Luckey at Faith Lutheran Church marked our foreheads with ashed signs of the cross. Those ashes were made by burning the strands of palms blessed last year on Palm Sunday; the ashes were then mixed with oil. As our Pastor marked our foreheads he looked straight at us and said, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." With those words he forcefully reminded us of our mortality, the real truth that we shall die, and our bodies will return to the earth, "dust to dust." Later during the service, Pastor also preached a sermon hard to forget, telling us that on Ash Wednesday the Church intervenes dramatically to tell us that we are in deep need to God's grace. We are addicts to sin. For this reason the Church comes to us, sits down with us, and tells us the truth: as addicts to self-centered behaviors, we are hooked on sin, "junkies" to selfishness, and abusers of one another. We are in deperate need to help. On Ash Wednesday the Church pleads with us to repent and make a determination to change the direction of our lives. Like drug addicts and alcoholists who know they have hit rock bottom, we too must come clean and actually see what's wrong with us, how we have damaged our own and other people's lives. We need God's intervention. Knowing who we are with renewed clarity, we confessed our hurtful lives, received absolution in the proclamation of the Gospel, and in the Holy Communion came to Jesus to receive God's healing from the disease of sin, stubborness of heart, and addiction to egoistic behaviors. We opened our lives up fully to Christ's healing and therapy. Made whole and healthy by God's incarnate Presence in Christ, June and I drove home, determined to drop ourselves like seeds and die in the ground--just like seeds!--so that we might burst forth with Christ in resurrected lives.

The Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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