Tag Archives: lent

This We Know: An Affirmation for the Journey

I originally wrote these words for the Montreat Women’s Connection in 2018, and I keep coming back to them as this Lenten journey continues full speed ahead toward Good Friday. You are not alone in the boat, dear ones.

So is the sunshine

This we know: the clouds are real,

and so is the sunshine.

The winds are strong, and so is the grace.

The pain is fierce, and so is the joy.

As people of Christ,

we follow a savior who is with us in the boat,

even when we are certain that it will sink.

As people of Christ,

we are bound by the Spirit in a love that will not let us go,

even when faced with death itself.

As people of Christ,

we boldly proclaim that God walks with us through the valley,

and the most faithful thing that we can do

is walk with one another.

 

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Remember that You are Dust: Ash Wednesday Reflection

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The quote is from Genesis 3:19, and churchy types will remember hearing it said on two occasions: funerals and Ash Wednesday. The phrase is often said during the “imposition of ashes,” when one person makes the mark of the cross on the forehead of another, often using ashes from burned Palm Sunday fronds. It doesn’t sound like the most uplifting of rituals, and it’s not. But, in my experience, it is one of the most honest.

Two years ago, I co-led an Ash Wednesday service at a local retirement community and nursing home. In a creaky, old, 1970s-style auditorium, my older adult friends and I called ourselves to worship, confessed our sins together, and sang of God’s forgiveness. It came time for the imposition of ashes, and, after saying a few words of introduction, my colleague invited those who wished to receive ashes to come forward or raise their hands, noting that we would be glad to meet them at their seats. Following her lead, I picked up my small, oily tin of ashes and made my rounds around the room. I stopped at every raised hand, and nearly every hand was raised. I dipped my smooth, twenty-something-year-old finger in the black muck and dragged it gently across more beautifully wrinkled foreheads than I can count.

“You are dust,” I told them, “and to dust you shall return.”

It felt strange, even hypocritical, saying those words to people in their late 90s, even early 100s. I felt certain that these people did not need a reminder that they were going to die. It felt awkward. It felt pretentious. And then, four or five people into the ritual, a tiny, 90+ year old woman shattered my selfish worries with four small words.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I told her.

Thanks be to God,” she told me, with eyes full of both confidence and humility.

Thanks be to God. It’s not the response that I expected, but it’s the response we all need to hear. Thanks be to God for breathing life into dust. Thanks be to God for making us dust, and thanks be to God for being more than dust. Remembering that we are dust means acknowledging how very small we are, how very great God is, and how very much God loves us. Remembering that we are dust means recognizing that, ultimately, we are not in control.

Remembering that we are dust means remembering that we belong to God, in life and in death. and thanks be to God for that.

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Alleluia Cannot Always Be our Song

Calling all Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Catholics!

Recently, a Lutheran music minister, friend, and blog reader asked me to write a litany for his church–a litany for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, when many churches engage in the ancient practice of bidding farewell to the word “alleluia” during the season of Lent. Without the word “alleluia” in Lent, the church is given space to explore a new vocabulary, one which is honest about the suffering of the world and the solemnity of Lent.

I wrote this litany with the Lutheran hymn “Alleluia Song of Gladness” in mind, and you can view the words and music here.

The litany is written to be said responsively during worship, but I hope that it speaks to all who read it individually as well. What word will replace your “alleluia” during Lent?

—-

We heard an angel speak to Mary, and we sang “alleluia.”

We saw Jesus heal a leper, and his gasp was “alleluia.”

We have seen grace. We have seen good. We have shouted “alleluia!”

But alleluia cannot always be our song.

We see Jesus betrayed and broken, and we hear no alleluia.

We see ourselves betrayed and broken, and we have no alleluia.

We know suffering. We see sadness. We shout out in silence.

Alleluia cannot always be our song.

In Lent, we journey towards the cross, and we leave behind our “alleluia.”

Today, we bury our alleluia, and silence fills its place.

     Silence

Silence will not always be our song.

On Easter, we will once again claim our “alleluia!”

We will hear that the tomb is empty, and we will shout out “alleluia!”

We will see our risen Lord, and he will look like “alleluia.”

But alleluia cannot always be our song.

Today, we bury our alleluia, and silence fills its place.

     Silence. 

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