Ash Wednesday
Tim Carson
Broadway Christian Church · Columbia, Missouri
The Worship of God · February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday
 
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. This season of the church year draws its name from the Latin word, lencton, referring to the lengthening of the daylight. The tradition of Ash Wednesday was already in practice by the eighth century. The themes of this solemn observance are two: at once reminding us of our mortality and the brokenness that tears us from God and neighbor. We are all called to consider our lives honestly and present them to God upon whom we trust for unfailing grace.
 
 
Litany
Journeying to Jerusalem
by Gay Williams
 
Lent – an invitation
to reflect, to reconsider, to slow down, to discover.
Invited by Jesus
to join him on the journey.
 
Sometimes I feel lonely and fearful on that dusty road.
What lies ahead?
Will I be able to withstand the challenges?
Will I be enough?
Will I respond with joy to the blessings
yet to be realized?
 
We are called forth
out of the winter or ourselves
to turn around,
to re-imagine our relationship with God;
On Ash Wednesday we are marked – tagged as Christ’s own;
reminded of the life to which we are called,
too fragile and temporary to be wasted.
 
As the birds awaken in spring,
the bulbs and the buds break forth
and the animals stir, so too we are roused.
We journey onward,
turning and returning,
having discovered that we are whole, loved, cherished,
now, and always.
from Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship
Marn Tirabassi and Maria Tirabassi, editors (Pilgrim Press, 2007).
 
The Scripture
Matthew 5:1-12
The Beatitudes
 
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
 
Evening Prayer
Nick Larson
 
God of the Cross, be with us now as we begin again the Lenten journey. In this time of worship, and in the days ahead, strip us of our attachments and addictions that we might bare our souls to you. Clear out our over-framed lives. Reduce us to an empty frame. Render us deaf and blind to the distractions of want, that we might hear, see, and be filled with only the demands of the Gospel. Break through our spiritual blockades that we might be assailed by your relentless love.
 
In the very beginning, you scooped up the dust of the earth and molded it into human beings, breathing divine breath into creatures of dust. Over time, we dust creatures have forgotten, who we are and whose we are. We believed a serpent in the Garden of Eden, who said we could become like you. We believed that the golden calf Aaron made could guide us in the wilderness. We believed the builders of Babel, who thought, by our own hands, we could be greater than you.
 
But you, O God, do not stop finding ways to meet us. You spoke to our ancestors through a burning bush, a whisper, a cloud pillar, the laws given to Moses, and then, ultimately, yourself in the very lips of Jesus Christ. You, Christ, exposed our lies of self-sufficiency. Our sinful pride is brought into the light. Our dusty nature is right here on the surface.
 
Lord, in your ever-present mercy. Amen.
 
The Meditation
Tim Carson
 
When the Psalmist spoke of the all-knowing God, who knows us in the future before we have arrived there, he wrote these words:
 
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 
The frame he references is the stripped down, undeveloped, unadorned self before it becomes what it is meant to become. Think of it as a frame of potentiality, an empty frame before the artist fills in the shape, color, texture and form of the final work of art.
 
This is the frame God knows. This is the frame God has created, and will create within. But it is more than a frame of potentiality. This is also a frame of limits. Anything that gets created inside this frame is surrounded by boundaries; it has edges, limits, beginnings and endings. It has length and width. This frame traces off a finite space. This is the finite space of my life and your life.
 
Our lives are limited by time, by place, by our strength, by our convictions. We can do only so much in so many places for so long. And that’s it, the limit. That is the limit of our frame. We live in a framed life, and on Ash Wednesday, we come to terms with that. We face it, head on.
 
We talk about the limits, failings and brokenness of our condition. We’re not infallible. We have broken others, and we break ourselves. And we know that.
 
We talk about the limits of time, that in the same way we came from the dust, so we shall return to dust. We are not gods, but mortals. We have a shelf life.
 
Our frame is not hidden from God, but sometimes, we hide it from ourselves, at least we don’t want to look into the face of our limits. But this is our frame. This is our life.
 
The thing to remember is God’s creative activity takes place within the edges of this frame – the boundaries of this frame. God’s creativity activity takes place within the time apportioned to us, and the powers we have been given. Because of that, everything inside the frame becomes precious. We recognize the truth of who we are, including all of our limits and brokenness in past, present and even future. But God already knows that. God knows our frame. Nothing is hidden, even before we were, and the future we have yet to live.
 
And here is the thing: Once we accept the terms of the frame, then we can start to let go. Then we can change our attention toward the maker of the frame, the frame-maker. And that becomes our true freedom, our truest and greatest freedom. We look with eyes wide open.
 
Remember; Jesus had a frame known by his God, and it was in utter surrender to God that he let go of his fear, his need to preserve, to grasp, to maintain. Instead, he took the cup he did not want to drink. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life, said St. Francis.
 
The end of the story is that our true freedom will not be found in grasping after the frame of our lives but rather in offering it to God, who is ever painting within it.
 
Thirty-five years ago, just before Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated, as he said mass in a small chapel in San Salvador, he said these words, the last words he would ever speak:
 
“Whoever offers their life out of love for Christ, and in service to others, will live like the seed that dies …”
 
God knows our frame, who we are, and what we may become, all of our limits and what may come out of them. And God also knows every edge and every limit that has been offered to the glory of God, made holy because it is, after all, so very precious.
 
Thanks be to God. Amen.
 
The Blessing and Dismissal
Tim Carson
 
And now, go forth in the grace of God, in the strength of the Spirit, trusting your God all the days of your lives. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

Last Published: February 23, 2015 9:54 PM