Friday, February 23, 2018

Ash Wednesday, 2018

Preached before I knew that a teenager had just murdered 17 (teens and adults) in Parkland, Florida
For readings, here


 Ash Wednesday 2018

This year’s Lenten booklet weaves together the poetry of Mary Oliver with scriptural passages and practices. In light of this, I want to offer you one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? 

We may think that this is a service about death, about the reality of our mortality...

But, we can’t talk about death without talking about life.

And, as I juxtapose the question, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” with the words, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”, I find myself considering what happens in the in-between.

Because, for all of us gathered here today, we are in the in-between time. We live in the here and the now of our lives. And, with Ash Wednesday’s frank and honest look at the reality of our brokenness and the truth of our all too short lives, we are reminded that there is work to be done.

The work of repair, of reconciliation, of healing. The work that takes broken hearts and mends them. The work that unites what has been divided. The work that gives life, the work that shines the light, the work that shares the love.

Which is why I feel myself drawn to the passage from Isaiah we have heard today.  Specifically, the closing words of the passage

“you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

A phrase drawn from the words of the prophet Isaiah today.

A phrase that defines the purpose of our Lenten fast.

The Lenten fast can take many forms, many of us “give something up” or “take something on” in this season. We do something out of the ordinary to help us reconnect to God, ourselves, and each other.

Reconnection is restoration. Restoration is reconciliation, Reconciliation restores and repairs that which has been broken by those things which we call sin, brokenness, trespass, or even debt.

So, this year, I ask us all to undertake a fast that repairs.

A fast that takes the broken places and people in our lives and offers restoration. A fast that brings wholeness of life. A fast that helps us to answer God’s call, as we ourselves are restored.

At this time, I am going to give us all a few minutes to consider or re-consider what our Lenten observances might include this year…so that we all might undertake the fast that repairs.


As we continue with the invitation to a Holy Lent, let us consider our one wild and precious life—so that in considering our death, we might re-consider our life.


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