The ashes of this day remind us of who we are. We are God's beloved, God's delight. Every person is named and claimed, marked as Christ's own forever, by the God who created her. The ashes of this day trace the mark of our baptism, the mark of our identity as God’s beloved. There is no one or no thing that can change that. No one, no thing. The ashes of this day remind us that we are God's, God created us out of the dust, and to the dust we shall return.
The Lenten journey is the journey with Jesus and one another to the cross of Good Friday. The Lenten journey is not a personal journey of "I am not worthy", but a journey we take together of discovery of our identity. Our identity of God's beloved, God's delight. On this journey we experience the God who weeps, the God who suffers not only for us but with us. Nowhere is the presence of God amidst suffering more salient than on the cross. This is a God who does not cause suffering, but a God who bears suffering. This is a God who does not initiate suffering, but God who transforms suffering that is ever present, ever real.
The season of Epiphany has taught us that God, who is revealed and incarnated in Jesus, loves us and names us. God, who becomes flesh and walks among us full of grace and truth, this God loves us, and is with us so completely, that God goes all the way to the grave on our behalf. There is nothing we can say, or do, or believe, that makes God's love any less. The ashes of this day, remind us of that.
The ashes of this day remind us of who we are. The ashes of this day remind us that God's love wins. The ashes of this day remind us that God's victory over death, Jesus going to the cross and the grave, does not mean that we do not die, but that we have new life, and freedom in God's love.
God is already calling us into relationship, sometimes we need to make room. God shows up, all the time, we though are often just too busy, or too loud, to notice.
It may take a while, it may take the whole 40 days, but you may make room for remembering who you are. You may make room for remembering that you belong to God, that you have been marked as Christ's own forever. As that reality dawns on you, as the reality of God's amazing and abundant love takes hold in you, as you remember that Love wins, you may feel compelled to respond.
You may feel the need to ask for forgiveness, for that which you have done or left undone. You may feel the need to forgive someone in your life. You may need to lay down that which is killing you. You may feel the need to serve, or to give. You may feel the need to repent, and return.
Or you may just need a place to sit, and be quiet, a place to deposit all your questions, all your misgivings, all your feelings of emptiness. Relinquish control, let go, trust yourself to be a part of something beyond yourself. Open up the quiet space, be connected to the community of faith, and remember the words, into your hands oh Lord, I commend my spirit.
Lent isn't just the lead up to the party at Easter. It's actually much more like life itself. We get cleaned up, all ready to go, and the next thing you know we fall back into the mud. Life is hard, it's messy, just like this dirt, just like these ashes, this smudge reminds us of who we are and whose we are, loved, imperfect, forgiven. Everyone one of us the same before God, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. There is no getting out of it.
We are invited to a Holy Lent. A time of quiet, a time of renewal, a time of examination, a time to be filled. I invite you to consider embracing the quiet. What is it you need to set aside, what is it you need to forgive, what is it you need to heal, what is it you want to do this Lent. I invite you to write that down.
We’ll take those pieces of paper, put them together, offer them up as ashes. Take a little time to be quiet, and write on your paper.