Ash Wednesday

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And so Lent has arrived.

I have had a wide variety of experiences today, all meaningful in their own ways.  I began the morning with a time of preparation.  Worship, prayer, and reflecting on words from a Mumford and Sons’ song, ‘Sigh no more’ that came to mind.

 

Serve God, love me and mend
This is not the end
Live unbruised, we are friends
And I’m sorry
I’m sorry

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea, one on shore
My heart was never pure
You know me
You know me

But man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing

Love, it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

Like many of Mumford and Sons’ songs, they explore spiritual themes of disappointment, spiritual desolation, sometimes defiance and moving away from God, and sometimes a return to strength, beauty and hope.   This one just hit the mark for me today.

You know, people get funny ideas about ministers/pastors/leaders (as do those people themselves) – this idea that somehow the leader has reached some level of higher perfection or holiness.  I’m not sure that’s my working definition.  When it comes to this sort of thing, my definition of leadership is openness about human struggle.  I think I learned it, in part, from the good ole Salvation Army testimony tradition, as well as St Paul who was always willing to let his wound be shown.  Not for the purpose of gaining sympathy or attention, but to magnify Christ of the wounds who comes to him with healing and restoration, even although he may be having to wait a while for some of that.

A five minute walk takes you across the street and a long a bit to my local Anglican church.  The 12 noon service was sparsely attended and led by Fr Grant.  He led it beautifully and presented the challenge of the season.  He gave opportunity and permission for us to be just a bit ‘undone’.  And I needed that today.  I’m enjoying the blessing of really good health these days but I still get so tired.  I’m an empath, so I feel people’s stuff deeply.  For years, I shied away from getting too involved because I didn’t know what to do with it.  Over the years I’ve learned how to safely sit with another in their pain and grief without being overwhelmed, but only after becoming more familiar with my own.

Today, Fr Grant crossed my forehead with ashes and with the words ‘from ashes you came, and to ashes you will return’ before ministering communion to us.  Empty, yearning and filled.  And so runs the pattern of life in the way of Jesus.  We come empty and dry to the Father and find that he is good, merciful and compassionate.  He is ever present to resource, strengthen and guide.  And soon, we find that he has been building up a strength in us that we know we didn’t have last week, last year, or even a decade ago.  My capacity for love is increased, and I become more of the man I was meant to be.

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