Feb 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

The Evening Meditation

We are all held up in the church tonight waiting for ashes.
There are no saints among us at this hour. Only sinners.
We are living together, we share a common earth, breathe the same air.

If you are in the military, law enforcement, the workforce,
in school, part of a family, drive a car, cross a street,
live next door to someone or pay taxes,
our individual lives, our thoughts and our habits,
affect other people, whether we know it or not.

But never underestimate the good you do
and the goodness that is in your life
that can gently lift you up towards the heavens.

But never take the Good for granted.
If you do, it can easily flip over and begin to turn in on itself -
it can slowly descend, it can lose its buoyancy
and begin to drag you down,
and when it does - we grasp.

We try to cling onto anything we hope will keep us from sinking.
We start thinking only of ourselves, our reputation, our own security -
trying to fly without wings.
That’s our experience of sin -
S. I . N. Sinking Into Nothingness.

But remember, you are made in the image and the likeness of God -
not a god of war, nor a god of bubbles and cotton candy.
You are made in the image of the God of heaven,
the God of beauty and nobility,
the God of tenderness and warmth,
the God of your deepest desire for union and love that no one.
Nothing in this whole world can step in to replace your God-given dignity.

When I allow myself to sink into nothingness,
nothing will give me a power to lift me up to the heights of heaven.
I will quickly become bored with this and with that, with him and with her.
The gods of this world, whether they be those around me,
images or fantasies, secret or powerful, cannot keep their promises.

We browse through the pantheon of earthly gods,
“What shrine will I visit next, who’s next, where to this time?”
But underneath it all,
one by one the gods of this world ultimately die and crumble.
And that’s what scares us -
that I have sunk into a living grave.
I have become use to eating dirt and breathing dust and ashes.  
Will anyone save me?

Of course, the preacher will say “Jesus saves you”. And that is true.
But too often I hear that message like an infomercial.
I’m out of shape, I’m always tired, I’m bored, I’m too busy.
So I’ll immediately call that 1 800 number
or click the “buy now” button.
It’s a quick  prayer for my body, my stamina, my mind and my looks
to be transformed
into that of a Greek or Viking god or goddess.
But did you not know that they had, among themselves,
the reputation of jealousy, revenge, stubbornness, pettiness and deception!
Fake Good News!

So where do I begin if I am slipping around in the mud
or sinking slowly in the soft clay of this world
or “up to here” in it?
I’m a sinner. But I want to touch the heavens.
I’m tired and I want to be free.
I keep on falling and I want to get to higher ground.

We begin our journey up and out of our entanglements,
not with a dream, fad, or quick fix or answer.
We begin where we are now,
where we find ourselves here and now.
We begin in the ashes of this world.
In the dirt, the clay, once again.

But rather than letting it define us,
with a spittle of grace, we will redefine it.
We will attempt to mold and shape it
into a moral and spiritual compass -
into the shape of a cross.
It will remind us that Jesus Christ,
who though He was without any sin,
is not afraid to get his hands dirty
reaching out to me and to you.

We will accept the sign of the cross
not in our hearts our soul,
but for now, simply on our foreheads.

It is not war paint, nor a fashion statement.
It is as if to say, I have a lot of thinking to do right now -
about my life, by sins, my fears -
but I must swallow my pride and seek to know
what the Cross of Jesus Christ is about -
how it can lead me up and out from my sins.
I have to think this out.
I have to make better choices and decisions
if I am going to live the high life
intended for me by heavenly Father.

But this will take time, will take planning,
choosing wisely the right tools,
the right team, good friends and mentors to inspire
and give encouragement along the way.

But useless it will be without the power of God
to reshape our thoughts, words and actions,
To guide us upward and onward along the road He has pathed.

We will be constantly tested and tempted along the way.
We can opt in or opt out.
We can cooperate or resist God’s gentle but powerful guidance.
So we stop, evaluate and retreat now and them to catch our breath,
admit our failings, take guidance and receive encouragement.
That’s why, I will get ready to make my Confession -
To hear the assurance, again and again of the power of God’s love
in His forgiveness of sins.

But not so fast you say! You not ready? You always are.
For now, a simple battle plan,
then later - some rules of engagement,
afterwards - the battle for the hilltop.
And on the 40th day, the final victory.

As we pass through the gates of Lent,
let’s get to advance on common ground, a level playing field -
we are all sinners packed tight inside a church like captive audience
waiting for our ransom to be paid.

But secretly the muddy cross of Jesus Christ
is making its way through the crowd to save us.
It will need some washing clean to shine again,
a truly deep cleansing
to shine again and point me home.

Solitary Palm for Sunday

Throughout our history, every year on Palm Sunday we gathered in mass in the piazza outside the church. We all held palms and listene...