The Open Doors of Ash Wednesday

IMG_3964The doors are open.

It’s not odd for this to be true because it is, after all, an unusually warm day for March 1. I approach and enter them with wonder: at their openness, and at what is to come inside.

We gather in the pews, preparing ourselves for the time to come. We have no knowledge of the elements of the service, except that it will conclude with the reminder of our own end. We stand and sing together and yet, I’m not sure the occasion for the words sinks in fully.

The pastor takes the stage. Her message for us entwines encouragement with challenge. “Remember that there is no delay in the forgiveness of God,” she exclaims, “it is extended to you no matter what baggage you bring today.”

We are invited to the table, something that seems so foreign on such an occasion. We are, after all, present to receive the thirst-inducing element of ashes, not the sustenance of food and drink.

Yet, there at the table of Christ, the paradox of the finality of death mixes beautifully with the deep promises of provision and life.

As the ashes are drawn across my forehead, I hear the words “from dust you have come, and to dust, you will return.” My mind races, not to myself, but to those for whom every day is a reminder of this refrain.

Day after day, the realities of life remind them that they are but dust. They cannot see the beautiful things that are struggling to bubble up, because of the oppression that constantly pulls them down. “To dust, you shall return,” seems like a quickly approaching reality, not a far off one.

And, in that moment, my mind pulses with the thought that we must find ways to open the doors of invitation, sustenance, and new life for them as well.

“From dust you have come, to dust, you will return.”

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

 

 

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