Ash Wednesday

 

Lent is a season
to restore the sacredness of the ordinary world,
which we rob of its holiness…
a season to restore sacredness
of the ordinary world.

Of course we cannot really rob
the world of holiness
because God cannot be stolen,
but we can
and do
turn ourselves into producers
and consumers of life
rather than the human beings
we were created to be.

We were created
in the image of God
and we are full of the presence of God.

Now that is a bold statement to make
and if it were just me making it, well
then you could toss it out the window
like a cigarette butt.

But that little nugget of wisdom
goes back to the beginning
of our spiritual tradition.
It is bedrock.

We were created by God
and God declared
that we are good.

We are not innately damaged
or congenitally evil, sin-sick
or ruined by some mythical act of Adam.

We are precious in our imperfection,
beautiful in all our weakness,
splendid in our strung-out limitations.
But we do lose sight
of who we are and whose we are
and so we have been willingly seduced
into becoming producers
and consumers.

As producers and consumers
we suddenly view the people around us
as utilities – objects
who can satisfy our need
or extend our influence.

As producers and consumers
we eventually view all manner of natural resource
as an object for our use – merely sources
of our food, shelter, and comfort.

As producers and consumers
eventually we come to view our work
as an opportunity to make money.

As producers and consumers
we view God as a distant target
of prayers shot glibly
out into the universe
like radio waves
seeking other life in the cosmos.

People and other creatures,
the earth,
our work,
and life-itself
are sacred – imbued with God
and sacramental.

All that we see,
hear,
smell,
touch,
and come to know,
is potentially revelatory of God.

Creation itself is sacramental,
and we are sacraments.
As ridiculous as it sounds
given our behavior and thoughts,
you and I are outward and visible
signs of God’s presence.

But as producers and consumers
we suck the sacredness right out of life
and ourselves
and never really notice.

This is our disease
and Lent is an opportunity we create
to get well
and find a little healing.

Lent is a time we set aside
simply to remind ourselves
of God’s presence,
and to observe the spiritual calluses
and cataracts
we have built up
over the past year
as we weakened in our resistance
to the economy of evil.

Getting well
does not require a spiritual transplant,
transfusion, or surgery –
there is nothing wrong with us
in any constitutional sense,
no matter what Augustine and Paul
have said about it.

We are, after all, a creature of God
created in the image of God
and we are beautiful.

We simply need to re-orient ourselves.

Fasting is fine,
it reminds us that we have become
too attached to the wrong things.

A new diet of prayer,
meditation, or contemplation is nice,
it reminds us to be centered
in the moment with God.

Spiritual direction, therapy,
or confession can help,
they remind us that repentance
requires rigorous honesty
and willful intention,
as well as grace.

There are any number of resources
we have in our bag of tricks
but none of them are sacrosanct –
they are tools
that help us remember who we are
and whose we are —
because we have so often forgotten.

The particular tool is not so important, rather
it is the act of making the time and space
to intentionally replace our lens
so we can see the world and ourselves
with newness.

The very act of keeping a season of Lent,
of using it to lift our head and heart
above the flooding waters of the economy
in which we become manic
producers and consumers —
that is essential for our health.

Being here today is a sign of hope.
I mean, who else but oddballs
attempting to live something different,
come to a place like this
and ask to be reminded
that we are going to die?

So along with being reminded
that you are going to die,
I want to give you something
to remind you that you are loved.

There is a rose in that bucket for you
to take home.
Please take one on your way out.
BUT please, be careful, roses
have thorns
just like life
has death in it.
Along with ashes,
the rose is a good reminder too.