Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

We went to the Ash Wednesday service at church tonight. It's the first time WMB has held such a service and coming from a conservative evangelical background, it was never a part of my tradition growing up either. And that's a shame.

While there is nothing magical about having ashes spread on your forehead in the sign of a cross, it was a significant time for me as Stephanie, our youth program coordinator, said the traditional words, "This is a reminder that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Hearing those words softly spoken then opening my eyes and looking directly into the eyes of another believer was a holy moment. The intimacy of that brief exchange pared with the recognition that this same ceremony has taken place in the Church for over one thousand years, filled me with appreciation for the work of Christ in our midst. It was a very visceral reminder that we are all part of one family, one body, who are finding our way to God as best we can.

Equally significant was seeing each person return from the front of the church with the smudged cross visible and recognizing that we are all, every one of us, broken. Rather than despair, I take great comfort in that fact. No matter the quality of our clothes, the prestige of our jobs, or the amount of money we have in the bank, we all in the end but dust, which puts us all on a level playing field as we pursue Christ and are pursued by Him. That God should love us, creatures of dust, enough to die on a cross is mind boggling.

On this first day of Lent, I am thankful for the ashes of death that remind me of the Author of life.


Kelvin Warkentin said...

It's interesting the different journeys we're all on as Christians. I personally struggle to understand the contemporary relevance of some of these ancient church traditions. Ashes, long periods of fasting--they speak of a different time using symbols that don't connect spiritually for me. I'm curious if there are culturally relevant ways to commemorate the death & resurrection of Christ, ways that will get the same point across but connect with me today.

Brad in the 'Loo said...

We are all different and experience our connection points to God in different ways. As a bit of a history buff I've always been attracted to ancient traditions. Just knowing that humans have done something for centuries stirs something in me that I can't quite explain, but I sense the presence of God in it.

I guess for you it's a case of finding what that point is. For some it's music, for others it's nature, and for still others it's art. In reality I suppose there really is no limit to how God chooses to speak into our souls. In your case maybe it's movies. I know that a film speaks to you in ways it doesn't for me.

Whatever it is, keep pursuing. God is not one to ignore a seeking heart.

Kelvin Warkentin said...

True enough. I feel more of a thrill to see ancient buildings and imagine myself standing where others did thousands of years ago. And I love history, too; it seems right now it's history books alone that can capture my attention.

However, there are some players in history that I view more as villains than heroes. Unfortunately I struggle to trust the motivations of religious leaders, including those in the Church, both past and present. If the lent movement had been something that had sprung up from layfolk instead of the leaders, I'd probably be on board. My inherent distrust of authority figures, especially religious, is an unfair bias.

Thus, I always really struggle to accept what a church leader thinks is best for me. Rather than accepting Lent as a means to growing closer to God, I view it as a manipulative, guilt-inducing tactic that discourages personal expression of faith. I don't want to be one of the sheep who does exactly what the other sheep are doing. I got too much of that as a kid and it still doesn't sit well.

I'm not saying I'm right or justified. If anything, I'm probably losing out in a shared expression of faith. But right now, at this spot on my path, I'm okay with that.