Wearing Ashes As A Sign Of Grace

Peace to you all, friends, on this Ash Wednesday!  Here is my meditation from our service tonight.

Photo Mar 05, 8 05 03 PM

Before I left for church today I was watching the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network and she was making some sort of green bean dish. As she dumped the beans into the pot she explained that she had trimmed and washed them. “They’re not perfect, but they don’t need to be,” she said as the dish started to come together on the stove.

Now I realized she probably just said this to fill dead air time while the beans were being transferred, but for some reason I could not get that sentence out of my head.

“They’re not perfect, but they don’t need to be.”

A few weeks ago, several of us gathered for Pat 1 of our discussion on the book, Practicing Balance. During our time together, we all shared the different ways that we feel out of balance in our lives. We talked about feeling out of balance at work, at home, in our relationships and with our children. One word that seemed come up over and over again was “guilt”. People felt guilty that they worked too much, but – at the same time – not enough. People felt guilty when they spent time with their spouses because they weren’t with their children and their children because they weren’t with their spouses. People felt guilty because they didn’t take time for themselves, but then felt guilty when they did take time for themselves. We were all kind of in a lose-lose situation.

I don’t know if it is the society that we are living in or how connected we all are, but now, more than ever, people seem to feel guilty that they cannot do enough or be enough. They feel guilty that they fall short of some unrealistic standard set for them by perfectly edited magazine articles, blog posts, news reels and pinterest boards.

But that is not reality.

The reality is that we are not perfect – but we do not need to be. Because God is within us and working through us – not despite these imperfections, but through these imperfections.

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day when we wear a tangible and visible reminder of our sins and imperfections.

People often look at Ash Wednesday as a “dark” day, as a day clouded by our human sins and immortality, to make public our confessions.

But I think Ash Wednesday gives us a wonderful opportunity to look in the mirror and see the beauty of what is truly there – an imperfect human being, touched by the grace of God. The ashes that we wear do not symbolize some sort of punishment; rather they symbolize an awareness that God will continue working through us and through our imperfections no matter what.

This is grace alive in one of the most spectacular ways.

One of the greatest musicals I have ever seen on Broadway is The Lion King. The song, “He Lives In You” is performed at a point in the musical when Mufasa, Simba’s father, is trying to show him that he will never be alone. Through this song, Simba sees that the spirit of his father and of all the Kings who came before him will always be within him.

In a way that only music can, this song reminded me that God is within us always. God lives within us. God gives us strength when we are weak, love when we feel hate and grace when we stumble. God does not make us perfect; rather God uses our imperfections in a way that only God can.

Before we receive our ashes this evening, I invite you to hear the song, “He Lives In You.”

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