Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Smudgy Living

 Ash Wednesday 2023

A common Church ritual that takes place on the first day of Lent each year is where the church gathers and receives on their foreheads a smudge of ashes on their foreheads.  The liturgy calls to mind one's sins, and in the words of the imposition of ashes: From dust, we come to dust, we shall return.  The smudging of one's forehead with ashes this year reminds me of how we allow all kinds of things around us to smudge up or interfere with our pre-birth-given image of God.  As good Christians, we strive to be accurate and truthful reflections of Christ and the one God wants us to be.  Yet, we know we often fall short of that ideal.  If we were perfect reflections of the Holy, we would shine forth with all the radiance of hope, compassion, charity, generosity, kindness, healing, and wholeness... but we don't.  The cross smudge says, "Yeah, I've fallen short." 

An Ash Wednesday service is sometimes a bit comical in how resistant to smudging some people are.  Some just don't want to be smudged, and that's their prerogative.  But others' foreheads just seem impervious to the imposition. Do they have purer transparency of the holy than foreheads that just welcome full-on black smudges?  I pause to hope. 

The world around us grows more smudged up with unholiness weekly.  The US society has yet to have a day in 2023 when a mass shooting has not happened.  The vitriolic rants, tweets, news -- many of it from self-proclaimed Christians, leave me wondering what it would take to polish their foreheads and transform the bitterness and violence to empathy and peace. How do we turn from our darker ashy side and be the clearer, shining light of the Holy?  

Therein is the purpose of Lent.  Lent is the 6 weeks of personal devotion, reflection, and practice of wrestling with the scrubbing process to increase deeper and wider transparency of the sacredness that is grounded in each of our basic constitutions.  I encourage you to take advantage of the many activities and offerings that churches all around provide to aid in that process between now and Easter. 


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