It’s not a very popular service.
And why would it be? I mean, who would really want to come at an inconvenient hour in the middle of a busy week to have the pastor make the sign of the cross on your forehead in black soot and bless you with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Maybe? Maybe not.
There are things in all of our hearts we don’t want to face. There certainly have been in mine. Our own Jerusalem’s. Our own coming to terms with what we need to pay attention to. The things we might want to cling to desperately, but in fact need to release, to “die” to, in order to risk the possibility of something more. Call it “resurrection”. Call it something on the other side of “this”. Some new life that we can’t, right here today, imagine finding our way to.
What if Ash Wednesday and the journey of Lent were an invitation to see what we don’t want to see?”
Simon, rector at All Saints Parish, in K.D. Miller’s novel, All Saints, officiates at his tiny Anglican parish’s Ash Wednesday service. He reminds his congregation that we can begin Lent by receiving ashes and those stark words, “Remember you are dust…” as a reminder that our lifespan is limited. And he goes on,
“But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to go on and acknowledge the thing that most frightens us, most pains us. The thing we are must reluctant to face. It doesn’t have to be death, though it can be. It can be the need to confront someone and say, “You hurt me”. Which is the first step on the road to forgiveness. Or it can be the need to tell someone we love them. Whatever it is, I suggest you enter this season of Lent with the intention of saying, in effect, Ecce cor meum. Behold my heart.”
This Lent we will explore what it means to be in the Dark Woods moments of our lives. We are not going to talk about just how to get out of it, as if life is good only when we are not there. We are going to explore what it might mean for our lives to recognize the gifts of the Dark Wood. What if times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness are opportunities for spiritual awakening? What if we saw how these uncomfortable times can actually help us to let go of all we cannot know so that we can live more wholeheartedly? Our Lenten Worship Series, “Gifts of the Dark Wood” is about “seeing life with new eyes.” I hope you will join us beginning on Ash Wednesday as we take this journey together.