Ash Wednesday Reflection & Invitation
Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. Below is a written piece from the service that focuses on the practices and habits of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. Why do you we gather? Why do we mark ourselves? What do these things do for us as a community? The piece is meant to be reflection and call. A call for us to engage in this season differently.
Solidarity & Sight
By. Jonny Morrison
Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent
In harmony with a thousand years of human history and nearly a billion incarnate saints, we enter into a season of communion and embodied imagination.
All across the globe, followers of Jesus will clothe themselves in the metaphor of dust and sackcloth, and though strange on the outside, these are habits of solidarity and sight. Signs in a living story that I may not be able to speak in language you know but can practice with you in a language that has more touch than sound.
We need these practices today,
Practices of Solidarity because the People of Jesus have always been a dislocated community, homeless wanderers, seeking to find and build a home that has no referent.
We need habits of solidarity because it is all to easy to forget that we are more than the sum of local parts. All to easy to be seduced by the smells of the similar and to label a brown and black body a dangerous “other” and proceed to cloister ourselves with in our own suburban communes.
We need these practices to link us together, in whatever place we are.
Whether in undisclosed and secret churches or in the ancient glory of Saint Peter’s City.
Whether in the silent peace prizes of Myanmar or the concrete enclaves of Oklahoma City.
Whether in the empty homes of Syria or the empty halls of Parliaments.
Whether in a hundred thousand cease fire violations in Eastern-Ukraine, or in 10,00 second chances on Aspen Way.
From Mosul to Boise to Mexico city, together we, with dark gestures, mark our countenance and give inaudible voice to the reality of own current dying.
Today we join with our family around the world who does not know the luxury of quiet indifference, and try for a moment not to know it either.
We need these practices, practices of solidarity and practices of sight.
Sight, because our eyes are so easily distracted. Because our loves are so easily mis-ordered. And because our imaginations are so easily co-opted by shallow promises.
It is for this reason our family incorporated these habits into its rhythms and routines.
Ash Wednesday and the season of lent began as an ancient festival born out of illiterate needs to narrate a story that might just demand hope for those who die more currently than others.
The season of Lent draws us into the forty days of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Which, in turn, draws us into the forty years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. In both cases a question is present: what are the means and ends of your intention? Why and how are you here?
The ends or the why is: to establish the Kingdom; to bring about a generous revolution that brings light and life to the wild spaces of human habitation, from hearts to homes to corporate head quarters and everything in between.
We need habits of sight because we tend to trade that end for our own. Like Israel in the wilderness, we grow tired of waiting, or comfortable in our privilege positions, or we forget our family around the world who suffers under our own misused power. And in the process our imaginations become small.
We need the practices of sight because they reminds us that not all is right in the world. They pull back the curtain and give vision to the reality that we are not home, but like Israel, in the wilderness subsisting off scarcity and calling it abundance.
These practices remind us there is more--more to you, to me, and to the hurt and hope of the world than we are sold.
And we need these practices of sight because we forget the means and how of the Kingdom. Like Israel in the wilderness, we convince ourselves that power, violence, and markets are the only tools of revolution without realizing that in the name of Jesus we build a rival dominion.
These practices are not just about Israel’s failing though; they are also about Jesus’ upside-down victory as he faces the same questions. Unlike Israel, as He wanders the wilderness, Jesus says no to shallow compromises and chooses instead the way of the cross.
Instead of seeing violence and coercion as effective tools, he lays down his weapons and turns open armed to the injustice of the world. He absorbs the dark into himself. He looks at the tide of hates and says, you shall go no farther than me. I am where you meet your shore.
We need these practices of sight because it all to easy to buy the lie that Jesus is not the way. It is all too easy to pick up sticks and stones and address the problems of the world, as they always have been. But Ash Wednesday invites us to see grace as power and hospitality as the only real way to kill.
This is why we gather today, why we adorn shadows and give ear to death: because we need practices of sight and solidarity. We need to remember and envision. We need to hear the story that invites us to the table with a renewed and embodied imagination. And more than anything, we need to see again and again the person of Jesus who became ash, so that the hope of the world would not.
Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.