Ash Wednesday Oddness

Ash Wednesday Oddness

Maybe it was the red-eye flight from Phoenix last night. Maybe it was going from 80 degree sunshine to 20 degree spitting snow. Or maybe it was a 1:00 am bedtime after the late flight, or the lack of enough caffeine to jump start the day. Or maybe it was the outcome in New Hampshire as the drama of the year moves south to the Carolinas. Or maybe it was reading Psalm 51 and having ashes smeared on my forehead in chapel this morning on this Ash Wednesday.

The worlds I live in don’t operate on the same scale of meaning. Psalm 51 suggests that in confession we find forgiveness, the Holy Spirit sticks with us, and we are enabled to teach transgressors a better way. This radical prayer tells us that until we are rightly concerned with our own sin before a holy God, we have little or nothing to say to those around us.

Then the cross-shaped smearing of ashes tells our body something that our brain can’t comprehend—that we are dust and to dust we will return. The kingdom of God tells us that we are in need of confession and forgiveness, that we fragile beings need to bring serious repentance to the throne of God, and  that we are most definitely terminal. But at the same time, we are capable of being filled with the Holy Spirit and  journeying with Jesus via suffering.

And all this is to occur in a world where gotcha politics abound, money makes kings, the press crowns gods, and people are dismantled in debates. In this world, you cover your rear end, show only your strong side, massage the message, attack your opponent, and smile a lot.

I don’t mean to sound like an old man soured by too much Fox news and fundamentalist fear. I’m just testifying that today, Ash Wednesday, the kingdom of God and the world of American politics collided on my forehead courtesy of ashes.

My marked body is experiencing something that critical thinking cannot achieve – the power of a simple practice to define reality.

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