Thursday, April 17, 2014

Not All of You Are Clean

Maundy Thursday Year A, St. Clement’s, 2014

For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 

Jesus knelt before each of them, cradling each calloused heel in his hands.  Cool water poured over each foot and the dirt of their travels sloughed off into the basin.  The dust, settling out into the water as one by one they lifted their feet, one by one they acquiesced to the care of their beloved friend.  

He showed no partiality and no concern beyond this simple act of love.  An action made radical by the very nature of the one who performed it.  The Son of Man, handling the very water and dirt of creation.  The disciples, rending themselves vulnerable as they presented themselves for cleansing.  

Intimate and awkward.  

They accepted the ministration of Jesus the Christ--and like so many of us they longed for more.  Not just my feet, but my hands and my head!  But, the feet prove sufficient. 

In that intimate and awkward moment.  

In that moment colored by shame and doubt, “not all of you are clean”.

Who, who was it to be?  Who placed his foot in the hands of Christ, all the while knowing that his next action was to be one of betrayal?  

I am sure the disciples wondered--how could they not.  Had they not left all they knew behind to follow this man into the city?  Had they not left father, mother, brother, sister, friend in order to walk with this man who now knelt at their feet?  How could one of this number betray him?

They thought they knew each other.  They thought they knew themselves.

But, who was to know what was to come?  Who was to know?

One of the reasons I value the repetition of our liturgy--the cyclical year in which we celebrate birth, walk through the desert, mourn death, and celebrate new life--is that we don’t know.  

We don’t know what forces will confront and confound us.  We don’t know what temptations will come and what choices we might make.  We couldn’t possibly.    

But again and again we are invited to the altar, again and again we are invited to forgiveness, again and again.  And, in that invitation we live into the truth that we are part of God’s unending promise and in that promise is healing and in that promise is love--and with that promise comes an assurance of God’s help.  And, that help is unstinting, and that offer is ongoing.  And so, tonight, each foot is lifted and each is washed in an offering of love freely given.  For the righteous and the unrighteous alike, for the sinner and the saint alike, for Judas and Peter, for each and every one of us.  

Participants in the offer of love freely given.

The mandate of Maundy Thursday is a mandate of love--a mandate of love that includes all.  

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John’s Gospel presents to us an image of a community drawn together by love.  Earlier this Lent I preached using the image of tapestry making.  The Warp to the Weft, I repeated again and again.  As a brief reminder, since I do not presume that any of you were there or even remember..

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art website 

“A tapestry is made by repeatedly weaving the horizontal (weft) threads over and under the vertical (warp) threads...Although you cannot see them in a finished tapestry, the vertical warp threads are vital components of each piece—they are the backbone of every tapestry, and provide the support for the weft threads.”

It is what is unseen, the warp, that holds everything together.  

And, when I reflect on what the nature of the warp might be, in the nature of what unites and binds into a community of Christ.  

I am left with the answer of love.  

Love, the warp to our weft.  

Love that holds together a community.

Love freely given.

Love, never withheld.  

So tonight we bare our feet, not as participants in some play or script, but so that we may be reminded of this call to love.  The love that binds us together into the body of Christ.  

The love that calls us to the humble service of others.  

This washing is a remembering and in the remembering we are called to doing.    

But, we miss the point if we stop there in the place of washing the feet of our friends--if we stop in this place of providing loving care only to the people in this room.  

Because the body of Christ is comprised not just of our pew mates.  The body of Christ is comprised not just of those who proudly proclaim their allegiance to this communion or that communion, this denomination or that denomination, this building or that building.  

The body of Christ encompasses those who have been, those who are now, and those who will be.  The Body of Christ transcends our imaginations and impulses and it is in our imaginings of Christ’s unconditional and uncompromising inclusion that we can see the vastness of the love to which we are called. 

With the washing is the remembering and with the remembering comes the doing.  We are called to serve others because the love we express here is just the beginning of love and we are called to ever more.  

In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth.  Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light.  Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.  Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.  And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.  

All embracing love.  Love for the sinner, love for the saint.  Love for those who have betrayed us and those we’ve betrayed.  

It is the love that makes us disciples and it is in living that love that our discipleship is made manifest.  

The dismissal that frequently concludes our services is that of “Go in peace to LOVE and SERVE the world” 

Love is the command.

Service is the love made manifest.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

“The Hand Did It”--A Sermon For Palm Sunday, Year A

Not all that long ago, my three year old made the following claim, “It wasn’t me, it was my hand that did it”.  While stifling a laugh, I explained that while it may have been his hand that had done it, he was the one in charge of his hand.  His hand’s action had been performed on his brain’s behalf--and we can’t separate the action of his hand from him.  

Needless to say, he helped clean up the mess his hand had made.  

Cute anecdote aside, there is something about who we are as human beings that makes us want to pass the blame on--whether that is shame or fear of punishment or something else entirely--it can be exceedingly difficult to claim an action as our own, owning a reprehensible deed and in that owning being honest about our own culpability.

We bargain, we negotiate, we pass the proverbial buck and use the less proverbial but.  The comic strip artist Bil Keane played on the universality of this tendency through his introduction of “gremlins” called “Not me”; “Ida Know”; and “Just B. Cause”, into his Family Circus strip.  The giggles ensued when we recognized ourselves in these declamations of innocence.  

But, the giggles are suffocated when we recognize that we stand this close to the edge of mob violence and recognize that “Not me” must be taken with dead seriousness.  

Biblical scholars, historians, writers and theologians have engaged in centuries of debate about who was to blame for the execution of Jesus.  Some argued that it was the Romans, it being their cross and their legal system.  Others contend that the Zealots, who were so disappointed in Jesus’ perceived failure to overturn their enemies in battle, were to blame.  And, still others continue to place the blame on the Jewish community living in Jerusalem at the time--a blame that led to the persecution and killing of untold numbers of Jews by purported Christians over the centuries.
“Not me”; “Ida Know”; “Just B. Cause”...

We miss the point in our machinations to pass the blame.  Because, regardless of which voices in that moment, in that place and time, called out crucify him--whether they were Jews, Romans, the Jewish Sanhedrin, or Pilate--this isn’t about any particular group or individual needing forgiveness.  Rather, it’s about a crowd of diverse individuals who came together around one issue, united in their hatred as much as they had once been united in acclamation.  As the Gospel of Luke indicates "That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:12)." 

With the crucifixion the uneasy peace between the factions could go on.  With the united cry of “crucify”, the crowd found something besides each other to hate.  And, oh how easy it is to slip into hate made manifest in acts of evil and persecution.  

In 1973 the results of psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment” were published.  Zimbardo wanted to study the behaviour of “normal” people when those “normal” people were placed with an evil environment.  Participants in the study underwent tests of their mental and physical health and ultimately, 24 individuals who were deemed mentally stable and “the least anti-social” were selected for participation.  Participants were assigned the role of either prisoner or guard and the experiment was intended to last 2 weeks.  After 6 days Zimbardo called off the experiment when it became clear that things had gone too far and the characteristic nature of encounters between guards and prisoners became negative, hostile, confrontational and dehumanizing.  

And, in his explanation as to why this disastrous and dehumanizing experiment went so long...well, Zimbardo had assigned himself the role of prison superintendent--and had gotten so caught up in the evils of the situation that he became not only complicit in them but a perpetrator of them.    

In fact, in a 2011 NPR interview, Zimbardo expressed profound regret that he hadn’t called off the experiment sooner...

Zimbardo concluded from this and other experiments that good people can perform evil actions in response to situational forces--whether those forces are the roles they have been assigned, the authorities to whom they are accountable, or their own desire to “keep the peace”.

This brings me to the crowd.  The crowd that goes from “Hosannas” to “Crucify him”...this crowd of “normal people”.  Submission, obedience, good bureaucrats, insensitivity--and a crowd of normal people becomes a mob--and from that mob of good, diverse people came the shouts of crucify.  

I get it, I get why in that time and that place, the tide turned and the once acclaimed Jesus was brought low.  But, part of why I bring to our attention the work of folks like Zimbardo is our need to understand why we tell this story again and again.  It is not sufficient to let the story rest within the pages of scripture--read in solitude and reflected upon in private.  

Traditionally, in many churches, the passion narrative is read as a sort of “reader’s theater” and the congregation plays the part of the crowd.  I have taken this reading for granted--in many places it’s just “what we do”.  But, in another time and place I found myself in conversation with an individual who argued that it was inappropriate for the congregation to shout “Crucify him!” because he felt it was misplaced blame.  We weren’t there he argued, we weren’t the ones who called for Jesus’ execution.  It wasn’t our sin and to call out “crucify him” would make people feel bad for something that they didn’t participate in.  He felt that to “make” people play the role of the crowd was emotionally manipulative and a cheap trick of sorts. Further, he didn’t feel that people should be made to feel guilty in church.  

Inappropriate he said, and with that, he walked away and the conversation was over.  I wish we’d continued to talk.  To work through what seemed like an intractable difference.  

Because, understanding how easily we too can become “the crowd” breaks us open to the possibility, indeed the truth that we are all in need of forgiveness.  Understanding the possibility that we too can become the crucifying crowd shines a light on the evils that stand in opposition to love.  This is not just about someone else or about some other time, or some other place--it’s about us in the here and now.  The us that is broken and in need of healing, the us that is desperate for reconciliation, the us that has been bound by our desire to keep the peace, the us that has failed to speak, the us that has failed to act...the us that comes to confess each week--things done and left undone, thinks known and unknown...

The us that is forgiven and will be forgiven and has been forgiven.  The us that is loved both at our best and at our worst.  The us that God loves.  The us that is beloved.  The us that anticipates the resurrection even at the forsaken last.  


For reference:  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dem Bones, Sermon for Lent 5A, St. Clement's Episcopal Church

All week the Spiritual, Dem Bones dem bones dem dry bones has been stuck in my head.  Composed by African American author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson, this particular song lists the bones from toe to head and head to toe--each connected to each and each responding to the word of God.  

"Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones, Now hear the word of the Lord."

Structurally, the book of Prophet and Priest Ezekiel, confronts the Israelites--both those living in Judah and Jerusalem and those living in exile in Babylon--with judgment.  Ezekiel is clear that ritual impurity and idolatrous behaviour are to be swiftly condemned and topical headings include such gems as: the siege of Jerusalem; a sword against Jerusalem; Judgment on idolatrous Israel; Impending disaster; Slaughter; disaster; and judgment.

I'm not sure Ezekiel received many invites back to preach...

Yet, what Ezekiel expresses throughout these pages of scripture is that actions have consequences.  Further, the actions of the individual held consequences for the individual alone.

In short, Ezekiel is conducting a vendetta against sin.  Now, we don't discuss sin often in the Episcopal Church--but a google search on "sin in the Episcopal church" turned up some doozies (and I don't necessarily recommend googling the phrase "sin in the Episcopal Church!)--most of the search findings were not particularly helpful to the writing of this sermon...

But, as we continue through Lent and approach it's culmination in our Holy Week observances, reflecting on sin bares some pertinence.  In fact, the liturgy that begins our journey through Lent invites participation with the following:  
"Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith."

While I am not aware of notorious sin that has separated the body of the faithful in this particular body...I am aware that part of our understanding of our life of prayer, our liturgy and our God is that we all sin.  The catechism of the Episcopal Church, as found on page 848 of the Book of Common Prayer, teaches that “Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.” Yet, in the midst of sin we are invited again and again and again to reconciliation.  We confess and receive absolution each week and we do so because we are the church.

And, because we are the church and not God, our body can and does break.  And it is the broken body to which Ezekiel speaks in the midst of his castigation of the Israelites.  

The Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Now hear the word of the Lord.

God calls us to wholeness and when the dry, broken bones are all that is left, God continues to repair and restore us from that which is left.  And, even when the connections between us are most tenuous, when they are so fragile that the wind can scatter us, the Word of the Lord can breathe life back into us--the broken body made whole once more.  

Central to our identity as Christians, as discerned through scripture and enacted in our liturgy with confession, absolution and reconciliation each week, is this invitation to wholeness.  At its core, Lent is about the broken becoming whole.  Lent’s purpose is the preparation of a people for resurrection and our appointed readings have pointed towards that purpose--In the restoration of sight, living water and new birth--the broken have been healed again and again--and in the breaking there is always hope for the healing.   

A few weeks ago I prepared a presentation on prayer in scripture for the adult forum.  One of the commentators on the psalms of lamentation was clear in his explication that we must lament--because in lamentation we express our dissatisfaction with the status quo and our reliance on and hope for the healing grace of God.  

This understanding of the importance of Lamention, of despair and anger expressed through prayer,  emerges out of our fragility and brokenness.  Lamentation hinges on the truth that we NEED God.   

And, throughout scripture we see God responding again and again to our pain and suffering with healing, wholeness and the constant invitation to reconciliation.

So, when I hear Mary and Martha in their despair and anger, their pain and frustration, I hear lamentation but I also hear an invitation to a life of faith that pins its hopes on new life in Christ.  

Now, I struggle with the narratives describing miraculous healing--I was a hospital chaplain and I have seen the hurt and harm these narratives can cause when taken literally and when a family’s prayers for physical healing seem unanswered.  So, when I turn my attention to these narratives I find myself looking beyond the literal and into the metaphorical--because metaphor allows us to move away from a story bound by time and into a truth that time cannot contain.  

In this story of resurrection, God hears us in the midst of our suffering.  God sees our brokenness and remains in relationship with us in our anger.  God weeps with us in our sorrows and rejoices with our rejoicings.  God loves deeply each of us and shares our grief.  And, even when all hope seems lost, the stone will be rolled away and all that is left will be life.  

Scripture teaches that neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God.  So in our living and in our dying we are participants in a body that is not bound by death--”unbind him and let him go” he says.    

So, here we are, in this Lenten time--members of the body of Christ and surrounded by the communion of saints and cloud of witnesses.  And, the truth is, we are broken.  The other truth is that even at the last the stone will roll away and the breath of God will breathe upon us.  As Paul writes, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death”.  

Let us be participants in reconciliation and in that participation let us come closer to the day when the entirety of creation finds healing and bones are knit together into the shape that is the body of Christ contained within the unending kingdom of God’s love.  

Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Warp to the Weft

So, here we are.  A week after a day that was filled to the brim with emotion--with grief and loss, love and joy, fellowship and shared laughter, rituals and tears, music and food and flowers.  This is a community that knows the importance of saying “goodbye”, of closing the circle as it were.  And, I felt so deeply privileged to witness so concretely the support this community gave to each other and all those who grieved.  You are the church, you are Christ’s body in the world, you, each and every one of you.  

Sometimes it can be hard to remember why we do this, crazy thing we call “going to church” but, last week, I remembered.  Last Sunday served as a testimony to why community grounded in faith matters.  It matters, you matter, we matter.  Even when it is hard to see, even when the muckiness of life (of budgets and worries and fears and transitions) gets in the way--it is still there, this body of Christ, drawing us together and surprising us again and again.   

I look forward to learning more about how this community has been drawn together, to hearing the stories and seeing the connections.  God has brought you here and I wonder why?  What role will you play in this body we call the church, in this body we call Christ?  
This brings me to today's sermon, as I read the readings appointed for today I reflected on the idea of seeing--the notion that God sees us for who we truly are in the depth of “I am”.  And then, I thought about our context here at St. Clement's and the deep love and commitment to community I was privileged to witness last week.  I thought of the ministry that lies ahead for all of us as this community discerns and continues to attempt the work of God in the world. 

And, as the readings and the context intermingled, the image that I have not been able to move beyond, the image I want to literally weave throughout this sermon is that of the art of tapestry making.

I am not a fabric artist, I once knit a scarf under duress, but I have been fascinated by the unicorn tapestries that hang in the Cloisters in New York for years.  I have often mused that when we look about us we see the messy threads--yet from God’s perspective the messiness becomes an image of great beauty.  So, I did a little research on how tapestries are made.  

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art website 

“A tapestry is made by repeatedly weaving the horizontal (weft) threads over and under the vertical (warp) threads, then squishing (or tamping) those horizontal threads down so they are very close together, thus completely hiding the vertical threads from view.

Although you cannot see them in a finished tapestry, the vertical warp threads are vital components of each piece—they are the backbone of every tapestry, and provide the support for the weft threads.”

It is what is unseen, the warp, that holds everything together.  Without that foundation there is no image, no picture, no beauty.  

What are the things that hold us together, that supports the threads of our lives and the lives of those around us?   Yes, the finished tapestry is beautiful--but only because of that which is unseen behind the threads.  

And, with that thought I wonder, where will we look for the gifts that will bring us closer to the kingdom of God?  Who are those people who hold our tapestry together?  Can this community, living in witness to the Gospel, be the warp to the weft?  

This community that, at its best, draws people together and truly sees them and loves them for who they are, exactly as God has made them--can we hold the circle, can we pull together the threads in a framework of love?  Can we see beyond ourselves and see more truly and hear more deeply the presence of God in this place?

The presence of God which is the warp to the weft.  

It can be so hard to do this, so hard to see beyond ourselves.  Recently, a video excerpt of the Italian version of The Voice was making the rounds.  In the video, a 25 year old nun in full habit appears on stage where she performs an inspired R&B rendition of an Alicia Keys song.  One by one, the judges turn their chairs.  One by one you see awe and delighted surprise on their faces when they realize that the voice that has just won their approval belongs to a nun.  

Wonderment.  I can only imagine that when Samuel found himself anointing Jesse’s youngest (and therefore lowest in social status) son, David, that he wondered at God’s choice.  What did God see in David that others had missed?  In early Israelite culture, the oldest son held the highest status amongst the children with each subsequent child holding less status.  Thus, David as the 7th or 8th son of Jesse (he’s 7th in Chronicles and 8th in Samuel) was almost extraneous.  No wonder Samuel mistakenly think that David’s oldest brother Eliab was the one to whom he’d been sent.

Yet, here he stood anointing young David.  

If this were a reality show we could watch Samuel’s face fill with awe as he realizes that the least of these was being called as God’s anointed one.  

The warp to the weft.  

All too often we are hampered by prejudices, assumptions and hierarchies--unable to see the potential, the gifts being offered, because so often these gifts emerge out of places and people we may find unlikely.  When we are able to look beyond the most obvious places of power and authority, what anointed voices will we hear?  

The warp to the weft.

This brings me to the Gospel appointed for today which partners with the text from Samuel--John’s version of the story of the man born blind who receives sight.  

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Prior to the genome, prior to germ theory, prior to talk of miasma and contagion in the middle ages was the prevalent belief in Western thought that physical malady reflected wrongdoing on the part of the afflicted.  So, in discussing the “man born blind” the conversation’s first turn was to the cause--and in the disciples’ understanding the cause was sin.  

Now, this understanding of illness is problematic for a variety of reasons.  But, at the heart of the problem is the notion that someone deserves their affliction.  Because, people feel that the blind man is blind through fault he becomes a pariah.  People are much less likely to assist those in need if it’s “their own fault”.  

So, his identity was severely limited by the perception of blame and it is clear that no one “knows” this man beyond his blindness and his begging.  The only people who recognize him in the story are those who had seen him as a beggar and his parents.  

Yet, he is seen, he is seen by Jesus and in that seeing he finds healing.  I can only imagine the awe and wonderment the blind man experienced as he took in the first sights.  I can only imagine the challenge this newfound ability to see posed to all those who had discounted him--those who still refused to hear him,  “I have told you before, but you would not listen”.  

So today we hear and see two people who the world would overlook--a youngest son and a blind man.  Yet, it is their presence and their voices that further the inbreaking of Christ into the world.  

What we have not seen becomes essential.  

The warp to the weft.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Wednesday, St. Clement's Episcopal Church, 2014

When I began my work as a pediatric chaplain I was astonished to learn that there was only one religious service offered each year--Ash Wednesday.  The Roman Catholic priest who served the hospital explained that other services had been attempted but Ash Wednesday was the only service that people actually showed up for.  

I was somewhat incredulous.  No Christmas?  No Easter?  Just Ash Wednesday?  

And, believe it or not, it was quite literally the best attended Ash Wednesday liturgy I have ever experienced.  Hundreds of people came--patients, families, staff.  Those who could not attend the noon day service knew that we would come to each floor of the hospital carrying our ashes and inscribe a dusty cross upon anyone who requested one.     

I was literally stopped in the hallway again and again.  Do you have ashes?  Do you have ashes?  Can we still get ashes?  

Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” as I carefully swept my thumb down and then across the solemnly presented forehead.

That was it.  A liturgy consisting of a mere 11 words and a single liturgical action.  

It could have felt out of context.  It could have felt like a mechanical action devoid of meaning.  But, it didn’t. 

The context  was a place which averaged two deaths a week.  The action was each pulse of an artery, every IV placed, the sweep of mops, and every carefully inscribed note in medical charts heavier than the lives they chronicled.  The liturgy of breath and hope, of death and resurrection.  

Is it any wonder then that nurses would crowd around as I carried my small pouch of ashes?  

Each to each and one by one.  In a hospital containing thousands, the only ministry that day, barring emergencies, was the administration of the ashes.

I have long imagined that part of the inspiration to receive ashes in this setting was the desire to be reminded that death does not win, that there is something more and greater.  That when providers are faced with the reality that not all lives can be saved they might be reminded that we all face the same limits of our mortality.  There are times when breath cannot be breathed back into the body and I imagined that the ashes served as a reminder of God’s care when those we have loved or served move beyond our care.  

From dust to birth, from birth to life, from life to dust.  

We could stop here, we could sit with that truth of dustness of ashness of the reality that  we come of the earth and return to the earth and that those we do not leave will leave us.  

But, that’s not the end of the story.  

Because those ashes trace the same line as the chrism of our baptism.  The oil traced in cruciform and the ashy remnants of our celebration cannot be separated.  Life and death juxtaposed in the creases and wrinkles and pores of our foreheads.

Ashes and oil, oil and ashes.  The themes of baptism and Ash Wednesday intermingle--restoration, reconciliation, community.  We are the household of God, and, in wearing these ashes, we are called to remember the mandate that concludes the baptismal liturgy

“We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith
of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with
us in his eternal priesthood.”

There is work to be done.  

And thus, in this moment, I imagine something new.  Those nurses, those doctors, the staff, the patients and the families.  They carried their ashes amongst the tiny inhabitants of the neonatal intensive care unit, they pulled down surgical caps, adjusted wires and tubing, soothed and comforted, listened and worked.  Those who bore ashes stood watching and waiting and weeping.  The quick anointing with earth in the rush of the hallway became a reminder of their calling.  Those ashes were ashes of new life, ashes of promise and of hope.  

In the hospital, there were hundreds carrying those ashes--and now I see more clearly that in the cross they carried, they shared in the eternal priesthood, shared in joy and sorrow, shared the burden, shared the pain and shared the hope.  In those ashes there was the reminder that we may have nothing but we possess everything.  

We possess everything, we have all that we need, and we do not stand alone.  

Do you believe it?  Do you believe that the ashes can make us whole?  

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.  

There is work to be done and we shall do it together.