To dust you shall return – but dust you shall not remain

Watching for Ash Wednesday, March 5

Lent 2014

Monday

photo-10Palm fronds burn.  The joy of last Palm Sunday is consumed by fire.  Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

It is somber, but it is not dark.  Ash Wednesday is built on a foundation of joy – or, at least peace.  We face mortality as those who know Easter, as those who have seen the empty tomb, who have heard the joyful cry, who have faced the great mystery that God will not leave his creation in dust and ashes.  We come to remember that we are ashes; we are not gods.  But we come to be marked with the cross, the sign of the risen one who has erased our sin.  We are mortal creatures, but created anew in Christ.

Somber, because of the fearful price of our rebellion.  Somber because of the fearful brokenness of God’s good creation.  But gathered in the promise of heaven’s grace.  Gathered in the dawning light of the reunion of heaven and earth.  Gathered for the journey to Easter.

Remember that you are dust – but also claimed by the risen one.

The Prayer for March 5, 2014

Almighty God, Holy and Immortal,
who knows the secrets of every heart
and brings all things to the light of your grace.
Root us ever in your promised mercy
that, freed from every sin and shame,
we may walk the paths of your truth and love

The Texts for March 5, 2014

First Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.” – Facing a terrible plague of locusts, the prophet calls for the people to turn to God, marking themselves with dust and ashes and rent hearts that God may see their desperate plight and come to their aid.

Psalmody: Psalm 103:8-14
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.”Psalm 51 is used in at the beginning of our liturgy, the famous cry of repentance by David after he has been confronted by the prophet Nathan over the murder of Uriah and the taking of Bathsheba.  When we come to the time for the psalm we hear the poet speak of the tender love and faithfulness of God who has “removed our sins from us” “as far as the east is from the west.”

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:1
“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
–  Paul calls his troubled congregation to be reconciled to God, not to accept the grace of God in vain, saying that now is the right time for them to return to God.

Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” – Jesus has declared that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Now, having spoken about the meaning of the commandments (in contrast to the way they are taught by the scribes) Jesus now turns to the acts of piety for which the Pharisees are known.  Our prayer, fasting and charity must be done not for public acclaim but to please God.

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