My meditation from tonight’s Ash Wednesday service.
Peace, friends, as you enter this Lenten season. xo
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Finding Peace In The Pieces
You might think that I am weird for saying this, but Ash Wednesday is probably one of my favorite services throughout the Christian year.
Last week I wrote a blurb in the Epistle about our Ash Wednesday service. I wrote:
This will not be a “depressing” service; this will be an opportunity for you to come and meditate on the upcoming Lenten season, to embrace who you are as a child of God, to acknowledge your brokenness and to seek strength, both from God and from this community.
I have been thinking a lot about brokenness lately – and not necessarily in a depressing way, either. We are, as a human race, broken. We sin. We fall short. Our imperfections are revealed on a daily basis.
And yet – we live in a world that continually strives to make us perfect.
Advertisers are constantly trying to sell us on products and systems that make our hair, skin and bodies look perfect and un-aged. Pharmaceutical companies research and sell drugs around the clock that create instant fixes and “feel-goods” in our bodies and in our lives. Technology is quickly advancing so that machines run faster, longer and more efficiently.
Why, I often ask myself, do we always have to be better?
When, I ask myself, will we be good enough?
What, I ask myself, is wrong with being less than perfect?
Is it okay to just be broken?
Yes. It is. In fact being Christian allows us to be broken.
A few weeks ago I heard a song called “21 Guns” by Green Day. The lyrics caused me to stop and think about the struggles of being human, of feeling broken. The song goes:
Do you know what’s worth fighting for?
When it’s not worth dying for?
Does it take your break away and you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside?
You’re in ruins.
When you’re at the end of the road.
And you’ve lost all sense of control.
And your thoughts have taken their toll.
When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul.
Your faith walks on broken glass.
And the hangover doesn’t pass.
Nothing’s ever build to last.
You’re in ruins.
I keep going back to that line, “Your faith walks on broken glass.” How true is that in our lives and in our faith? A Christian journey is not a journey walked on the marble floor of an expensive mansion. That is not even how Jesus, himself, lived his life. It is walked on dirt roads, uneven floors and around obstacles. It is real. It is human. And it is very often broken.
Walking a Christian journey allows us to be broken. It allows us to confess our sins and our shortcomings and our brokenness to on a daily basis and still be assured of God’s love and grace in our lives.
I never really liked the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgies that forced people to be reminded of their failures, sins and shortcomings. People know them already – they do not need a priest or a minister to remind them. What they do need, however, is to have someone tell them that it is okay to fail, sin and fall short. What they do need is to be assured that despite those failures, sins and shortcomings, God loves them.
Ash Wednesday is an opportunity to pause in our walk of faith and allow us to be broken. More than that – it allows us to be okay with our brokenness.
The ashes that we will receive tonight come from the palms leftover from last year’s Palm Sunday worship service. This is the ash of the palms that we once laid down for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and we shouted ‘Hosanna!’. We do this because it reminds us of the complexities of who we are as human beings. We strive to be good people and yet we fall short. We shout ‘Hosanna!’ and lay down palms for Jesus to enter Jerusalem on and yet we betray him and put him on the cross.
Wearing the ash of the palms that we once so boldly laid down for Jesus reminds us of the contradictory nature of being human. We try. We fall short. We are broken.
But – God’s grace redeems us. Always. And that is why we come to this space to tonight.
We are all imperfect and broken human beings touched by the grace of God.
These ashes are a sign of grace. We wear them on our foreheads and on our hands today because we know that despite the mistakes that we have made, we know that God forgives us always.
Tonight is a time to acknowledge our brokenness – and also a time to be okay with our brokenness.
As you receive your ashes this evening I will not be using the traditional imposition phrase, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Instead, as we reflect on – and find peace in – our own brokenness, I will invite you to receive your ashes by hearing the phrase, “Find peace in the broken pieces; and let yourself be loved by God.”
We are all broken at one time or another. But God will put the pieces back together.
Find peace in the broken pieces; and let yourself be loved by God.
Blessings into your Lenten season. Thanks be to God! Amen.