Ash wednesday

Today is that day in the Church calendar that marks the beginning of the lenten season. For many who go to more traditional churches - and even some evangelicals that have come to appreciate the goodness of embodied practices - this is the day they will receive the 'imposition of ashes.' That means that, having burned the palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday, the minister will use the ashes to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. "Remember that you are dust," she will say to them, "and to dust you return." We move into the season of Lent acknowledging that we have been bent away from God's designs for our wholeness and connectedness. The decisions we have made, and some others have made for us, have led us to a place of dislocation. This reality of need sets us up for a deep longing for the salvation Jesus offers: release from all that bends us away from his goodness, and restoration to promised Life.

Rehearsing the story

I did not grow up in a context where we practiced these ways of engaging our bodies in these ways of rehearsing our story with God. These days, though, I have come to appreciate that something deeply formative happens when I bring my body to the process of being with Jesus. Even when I don't really 'get it' my five physical senses become places of encounter with the story and person of Jesus.

I love the prayer of the Anglican church for this day:

"Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."

drive me deep to face myself

I often find myself turning to the prayer-poems of Ted Loder, whose words help me enter into realities of my own experience in deeper ways. This poem is one of his, and seems so appropriate for marking Ash Wednesday and entering into Lent:

Lord, grant me your peace,

for I have made peace

with what does not give peace,

and I am afraid.

Drive me deep, now,

to face myself so I may see

that what I truly need to fear is

my capacity to deceive

and willingness to be deceived,

my loving of things

and using of people,

my struggle for power

and shrinking of soul,

my addiction to comfort

and sedation of conscience,

my readiness to criticize

and reluctance to create,

my clamor for privilege

and silence at injustice,

my seeking for security

and forsaking the kingdom.

Lord, grant me your peace.

Instill in me such fear of you

as will begin to make me wise,

and such quiet courage

as will enable me to begin to make

hope visible,

forgiving delightful,

loving contagious,

faith liberating,

peace-making joyful

and myself open and present

to other people

and your kingdom.