So, it's Ash Wednesday, and I get to bask in the memory of worship on my favorite church holiday.
This year, I decided, I like that it's repentance we do together.
Too often, we waste too much time pointing out personal sins. (Our own, and others...) On Ash Wednesday, though, we all take on ashes.
It's making me feel better--even a little bit hopeful--in the midst of too much that's going wrong. (According to Matt, the world's going to hell in a handbasket.) If we're all willing to take on ashes together, in church, maybe we can begin to think about what it would look like to repent of the things we do together, sometimes without even really meaning to: starting wars and continuing them, denying the worth and humanity of children of God, persisting in systems that perpetuate sexism. And racism.
Maybe reconciliation can be possible.
It always feels really weird, putting ashes on other people's foreheads. First off, there's the worry about getting the right amount on your finger, so it makes a mark that's sufficiently visible to seem truly repentant, without showering their nose with little bits of ash.
Then, there's the awkward way the ashes make us confront our mortality. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The same words to everyone.
In my mind, they're words of comfort: we are all of the same "stuff," and, ultimately, it's not even what makes "us" "us." Dust.
And, remembering that we're all dust somehow makes all the little stuff more meaningful--the dust of the earth matters, since it's what we are.
All of which Ellen Ott Marshall said so beautifully in her talk at church tonight, as she invited us to practice hope this Lent. Hope in attentiveness to the little stuff, even as it sits in tension with so much that's wrong and difficult and hard.
SO, I'm resolving to accept the Lenten challenge Karen gave me: to write. And I'm gonna try to be attentive to the dust and other little stuff that gives me hope.