On Ash Wednesday we offered "Open Church" in the morning and evening for those who wanted to receive the Imposition of Ashes, but who - because of work or school demands - were unable to attend our traditional noontime Ash Wednesday liturgy. I sat out on the front step of the church in the rocking chair that usually sits at the back of the sanctuary. Starting at 6:15 a.m. the doors were open, the lights were all on, and everything about St. Paul's to someone passing by said, "Come in. We're open." And it was a beautiful thing to see how many people came to receive ashes. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Something shifts inside us when we have ashes - leftover palms from last year's Palm Sunday liturgy that have been burned and prepared for Ash Wednesday - rubbed on our forehead as those words are being said. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. It makes us realize how small we are on the cosmic scale, and how quick and fleeting our lives can be. Ash Wednesday invites us to come to a complete stop, and to take inventory of every feature of our lives. Immediately following that brief moment when one receives the Imposition of Ashes, and comes face-to-face with our finite human nature, I then offered the Eucharist from the Reserved Sacrament - the Bread of Life for the journey of life; nourished, renewed, and sustained by our Lord who bids us to follow Him on this Lenten journey. It was as though time stood still for a moment as we all realized how much we truly are One. In addition to our own parishioners, we also had Bethlehem School teachers, parents, and grandparents come. And we had people from other churches and other traditions come. And we had visitors from out-of-town come too. And for one brief moment - though some we had never met - we were all actually One. You could see it in peoples' eyes and in their countenance. You could see the hunger, and the hope, and the humility, and the readiness to return to God's ways. One person said that they felt like they were always rushing from one "necessity" to the next and could never keep up, and for what; where was all this leading? This person reflected on the craziness of the "demands" around us and how hard it is to keep your feet planted firmly on God's path when you're constantly being assaulted by the "urgent" worldly expectations of those around you.
The "Good News" is that we have a choice. We can live in resonance and solidarity with God and with one another if we choose to. It is challenging; of that there is no doubt. But everything about Ash Wednesday and Lent says to us, "Come." Come and see. "Come, and follow me," he says. "I will lead you into fullness of life, where you can thrive in inner-abundance, with faith, hope, and love."
May you have a blessed and transformative Lent, my friends. The door is open. The lights are on. And our Lord bids us to come.
In His Peace,