Ash Wednesday: Embracing Healing for Lent

Ashes and pieces of old vintage photographs strewn across the ground. Text reads: "Reluctant Mysticism: Ash Wednesday 2019,

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday — the day in the Christian liturgical calendar that marks the beginning of Lent. The day we remember our mortality — we are dust, and to dust we shall return. The day we confess repentance and our need for God’s forgiveness.

The text for the day was from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 — Jesus criticising the religious leaders for giving money, or praying and fasting in public for the world to see. Not an easy text to wrestle with when the tradition on Ash Wednesday is mark ourselves with ashy crosses on our foreheads.

This year, Trinity Lutheran Church is deliberately focusing on healing during our Lenten season. Lent isn’t always about giving something up, but choosing to welcome in a new, perhaps scary, thing. That welcoming in can be just as rigorous or terrifying as the letting go. It’s not easy or a one-off event. Welcoming in can demand more of me that letting go.

How are we to do that if Jesus sounds like he’s dead against public display of worship? What does that mean for healing in community?

As I begin to reflect on Lent and healing, Jan Richardson’s poem began to help shape the possibility of welcoming in, letting go, and all the things God could do (and does) with dust.


All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

something new in that perhaps

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