Ash Wednesday 2009
Jointly composed by Rev. Robyn Provis/Rev. Paul Eknes-Tucker
Tonight we begin the 40 day faith journey to Easter. Lent invites us to a very different place than many other liturgical seasons. Here at All God’s Children we practice radical welcome and radical inclusiveness. During Lent we add the practice of radical humility. Rev. Robyn calls Lent a refresher course in renewal. I think there is something to that.
Did any of you catch President Obama’s address to the nation last night? If so, much of what you heard was a call to a type of global Lent. He asked all of us to reflect on what is required to bring our nation back to a condition of wholeness and stability. It is not just the job of government but of every citizen and every person who calls this nation our home. As a global community we have to reflect on how we got to the place where we are – the good decisions and the bad ones, the quick fixes, short-term thinking that deferred long-term consequences. He asked us all to put our shoulder into the journey of getting back on track while at the same time remembering who we are and where we came from. That sounds a whole lot like what Lent asks of us – to bring our entire self to God.
In the early days of the church Lent was the time when people readying to be baptized into Christianity would prepare their hearts and minds for the commitments they were about to make. Living our faith is messy business. It is both rewarding and difficult. So each year during Lent we commit to following Jesus’ journey, paying fresh attention so that we can find new meaning and refreshment. Radical humility is required because radical humility means opening ourselves up to being teachable as if the good news of the gospel can be heard fresh again.
Social activist Jim Wallis says “humility is a difficult virtue for those of us who are called to a prophetic vocation-people like you and me. Humility is difficult for people who think they are, or want to be ‘radical Christians.’ Humility is difficult when you’re always calling other people, the church, the nation and the world, to stop doing the things you think are wrong and to start doing the things you think are right. Humility is difficult for the bearers of radical messages. When we are always calling other people to repent and change, it’s not easy to hear that message for ourselves.”
That’s why tonight we invite you to come receive ashes. Receiving ashes is a very physical, visual, and tactile act of repentance and humility – a mark and act of commitment. Far from simply an empty ritual, this small step toward humility and change has huge implications in our lives.
We often speak of this change in religious contexts as “repentance.” That word has been used as a club on some of us but I want you to know that it simply means to turn around and go in a new direction. If you have things in your life that are getting in the way of bringing your whole self to God, then consider repentance – try a new direction. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Repentance is a sane decision to try something new.
Lent is not so much about what you give up as it is about what you let go. Yes, we joke about giving up abstinence for Lent. I hope what you hear me saying is that you have an opportunity tonight to try a different journey – a sane journey – a Lenten journey. You’ll get out of it to the same proportion as you put yourself into it.
Preparation is important so let us prepare ourselves to be open to God’s possibilities. We’ll use a Litany of Confession with a sung response to each request. I invite you to immerse yourself into the rhythm of the litany and allow it to guide you to those places within yourself that need a healing touch.