An Ash Wednesday Reflection.
The lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday are here.
Being the youngest of 3 children, if I had a penny for every time my brother and sister called me the favored one, I’d be independently wealthy. It wasn’t that my parents raised me with a different set of rules than my siblings, it’s just that I watched what they got in trouble for and chose not to do those things.
But, I must admit, I liked being through of a the favored one, thinking I was extra special even though I really knew that my parents loved all of us equally.
God loves each and every human being who ever was, who is, and who will be equally, beyond our human measuring, unconditionally, and always, giving us life and inviting us into relationship without coercion.
Ash Wednesday is about acknowledging our humanness, not so that we look down on ourselves but so we deepen our understanding of who God is, who and whose we are, and our relationship with God.
And so this is one of those times I’d like to adjust the wording of the Book of Common Prayer. How would it be if instead of saying “God, you hate nothing you have made” we said, “God you love all whom you have made.” I guess I’m just a glass-half-full person; or perhaps it’s because I was raised in a church that tried to convince us that the God of Love was always looking for us to mess up so he could punish us. And if you have been taught by anyone about this same angry god, please know that you have been lied to and accept my apology on behalf of those who teach it.
If you were here on Sunday, you heard me say that when we focus on the so-called depravity of humans, that we are denying the image of God in which God created us all, that we are good and we are not perfect. AND, God loves us. AND, God gave us the free will to choose to love God back or to choose a different way of life because God knows that love requires choosing.
But please don’t hear me saying that we don’t ever need to repent, to redirect our hearts and minds toward God’s goodness. In order to be able to choose God, to accept the gift of forgiveness, we have to admit we need to change. We have to acknowledge when we choose to direct our attention and affection away from God. We have to admit that we spend a good amount of time trying to build our own kingdoms rather than participating with God in building up the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
We need to cultivate an awareness of what we let shape our hearts and minds. We need to pay as close attention to what feeds our soul as we do what feeds our body. We are being shaped not just when we are in worship together but by all that we watch, listen to, and read the rest of the days of our week. We are discipled by what we give our attention to the majority of our time.
And in our gospel reading for today, Jesus reminds us that, yes, our motivations do matter. If we perform rituals simply to get recognition for how holy we appear to be, we are getting our reward we want. And if we think being holy means being miserable, we’ve completely lost the plot. The message of Jesus is Good News, an invitation into reconciled relationship with our Loving God that frees us from the prison of fear, anger, and hate so we can live in the abundance and compassion of God’s Kingdom on earth.
When you hear “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” do not hear, “you are nothing”. Hear the amazing love of the God who chose to create us from love and for love. We have this amazing gift of life in this world, part of God’s creation, THE part that tipped the scales from “good” to “very good”, partnering with God in the care of creation.
Being reminded we are dust is about God’s love and desire to be in relationship with us and putting our relationship with God in the proper order. God is God and we are not; we are the wondrous, amazing, very good, beloved of God’s creation.
Each and every one of us God’s favored one. Amen.