Ash Wednesday #Ash #lent2016 #ELCAlent2016

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As I have done in previous Lents and Advents, I intend to share a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline this year. I will be using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. In addition to reflecting on the day’s word, this year, I am going to add the unique piece of pondering what this means for me (at this point in time in my life) as a Christian and Lutheran Christian. Because of this, these posts might be a bit more personal than in previous seasons. I hope that just as this is a good practice for me, it might be of inspiration or meaning for you as well. 

Allison and I together on Ash Wednesday 2016. (Allison put the cross you see on my forehead.)
Allison and I together on Ash Wednesday 2016. (Allison put the cross you see on my forehead.)

I have written about Ash Wednesday on the blog in years previous, so I invite you to consider my thoughts especially from 2014 and 2015. In my head today I have been humming the words from Michael and Lisa Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” In particular the repeated chorus:

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
Making me new.”

This is a helpful reminder as we start Lent on what is usually the most somber day of the church year. For me as a person, being reminded of our common source of dust with all creation and of the mortality piece that one day we will all return (in our earthly forms at least) to dust is important.

For me as a Christian and Lutheran, being able to talk about life and death and putting an emphasis on that is important. Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death does a good job of naming our culture’s reality of trying to avoid talking about it as much as possible. It’s an interesting juxtaposition though given how much of our entertainment and favorite movies, shows, plays, etc. offer stories that feature death often so prominently. Yet, even so we live in fear of it and shudder to talk about it.

Editor’s Note: The following paragraph talks about death and trauma (related to depression, etc.), so please consider this a “trigger warning” before continuing to read.

I remember back in high school, especially over the course of my sophomore year. Class wise that was a good year. Friend and classmate wise, that it was a tough year. Over the course of 12 months, four classmates of mine lost their lives to suicide. At least two of those classmates I sat directly next to in one class period. I recall a hard morning in my biology class when we heard that our classmate would not be returning. Our class gathered in the back of the lab, not sure what we would do in our public classroom. But someone asked me if I would pray. To this day, I don’t know what words came out of me, but I know that I asked God to speak and to use me. Words came out. Tears were shed, but there was comfort, peace, and an acknowledgment of community.

Even in the midst of the darkest hours, even in the midst of death and brokenness, God is there with us. When we face mortality, we do so with the promise that we are not alone. God is there, and God makes “beautiful things out of us,” whom God creates “out of the dust.” God makes us new, and in that there is great hope.

As we acknowledge today, yes, “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” The ash that we put on our foreheads is a symbol and a reminder. It is an acknowledgment of our finite human reality, but also of our hope in the promise that through God, death does not have the final word.

1 comments on “Ash Wednesday #Ash #lent2016 #ELCAlent2016”

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