Ash Wednesday 2013: You are but dust: a meditation

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.

I invite you to a holy Lent.

Sober words we hear today.  Lent is about remembering our death, to a time of intentional self examination and repentance.  We “lament our sins and acknowledge our wretchedness.”  It is a time in which we are called to pray, fast, deny ourselves, and to read and meditate on God’s word.  I will in a few moments invite you to do all of these things.

These ashes are marks of transformation.  The mark is not a random print on our heads, but of the cross of Jesus, the cross of sorrow and death and ultimately, new life.  New life!  Lent is a time of transformation.  Lent is a time to remember who it is that is in charge, and it is not you and it is not me.  In Lent, should we choose to practice it, we throw ourselves on the mercy of God, remembering and acknowledging that it is God who made us and who transforms us.

Our job is to put ourselves in a position to be ready to be transformed, to be ready to rely totally on God for all that we have.  So …

We pray, in order that we might hear the voice of God in our heads and in our hearts; the words will transform how we act in the world.

We fast, that we acknowledge that what we, at least in our environs, are hungry for is not food but the very Word of God who alone can fill us.

We deny ourselves of extra things in order to remember that we didn’t need them anyway.  We practice almsgiving; we go without something that another might be fed or filled in a new way, perhaps with the Word of God.  Or with the gentle surprise of kindness in a hard world.

We read God’s word.  Lent is a good time to make daily Bible reading part of the pattern of our days.  We can find the words in books, on CDS, on mp3 files, on Nook, Kindle, Ipad, Ipod, in our service bulletins, and in dusty books on our bookshelves.  In Lent we commit to read them.  Find one.

We meditate on God’s word.  A starting question might be: “How is it that Scripture is speaking to me today?”  What might this mean?  Ask your faith friends and (even!) your priest, the sorts of questions that you might ask along the way.  Ask about how you might meditate on God’s word….

I know … I will start all of these things … tomorrow.  I will get started right after the kids go to school, after my meeting, after I take out the trash, have a cup of coffee, lose 10 pounds, change my life … I will start … tomorrow, meaning “not now,” and maybe never.  We are busy, aren’t we?  I sure am!

How might your priest help you with that?  What is it that you need to hear today?

How about:  I know that you are busy.  I am, too.  We live in a world of busy, not of the pursuit of sustenance, but the pursuit of “more:” more games, more stuff, more time off, more leisure, more.

Hear me again talk about Lent.  Lent is a time when we are called to rest … in God.  Rest in God.  St. Augustine said several centuries ago that we will not rest until we find our rest in God, and it is so.  Allow yourself in these Lenten days to rest in God, to rely on God alone.  Only God.  With you.  God so desperately wants to know us, to heal us, to hear from us, that God sent His son to us.  Rest in God, even if it is for only a few moments each day.  Tell “busy” to go outside and play.

There is something else.  Lent is a time of repentance.  It is not a time of sorrow.  Lent is a time of celebrating these spiritual practices, of welcoming new ones into our lives, not in some flamboyant, loud way, but in a way that brings a new relationship with Christ into our lives.  Lent is about relationship, about recovering a relationship with our Lord and our God who desperately wants us to know Him and to live as if we do.  We do not have to do much work; we have to make ourselves available and vulnerable – to a new life and to a protection that no one on earth can provide.  God alone is our strength, our protection, and our provider.

Walk with me, then, into a holy Lent.  Hear the words not only with your ears but with your hearts and minds and bodies, that we might be ready for this journey and ready to be transformed.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I invite you to a holy Lent.

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