Ash Wednesday - Reflections 2-26-20

Today is Ash Wednesday and we kneel to receive a cross-shaped smudge on our foreheads.


Ashes remind us that one day each of us will die. It is often unspoken, but still true: when we were born, we took the first step toward death. We are, as they say, walking dead. 

Ashes remind us that we are all broken. We have been hurt by others. We have hurt others. We are quick to name others the enemy when disagreeing. We are reminded that we need to tell the truth about this to ourselves and to God.

Ashes remind us that God loves all people and that God forgives us when we don’t love. Forgiveness frees us to turn toward others and serve them.

Ashes remind us that in the midst of mortal and broken life we are still called, named, claimed and loved as children of God. The ashes are placed on our forehead in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our foreheads in baptism, “marked with the cross of Christ forever”.  We are reminded of God’s promises.

 Ashes remind us that through Christ God has expressed solidarity with us and all creation through all of life and death beyond. Ashes remind us that through Christ we are called to that same solidarity with others and creation.

Ashes remind us of all those around the world who mourn and suffer.

To that final point… the adult ed committee at Gloria Dei chose to remember those around the world who mourn and suffer because of gun violence as our study and reflection topic for Lent this year. 

The committee adapted a resource from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the topic. 
Here is the opening paragraph for the original: 
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is saddened by the all-too-frequent occurrences of gun violence in this country. We mourn the loss of life. We grieve for the victims and their families, who often feel silenced. And we lament for those who have done violence to others and often feel removed from a community of faith. Our baptismal covenant calls us to strive for justice and peace in all the world. As a church, we look for ways to bring healing to those affected by violence.

During the committee's planning this summer, the weekend of the mass shootings in Gilroy, CA, El Paso TX, and Dayton OH took place.  The readings from the ELCA resource for that weekend included the text of a hymn lamenting gun violence and a prayer for emergency workers. Those readings and the violence that weekend sparked passion to spend 40 days for our Journey toward Justice in a culture of gun violence. That journey starts today.

Here is the prayer we chose for Ash Wednesday in our adapted resource. 
Merciful and compassionate God, we come to you broken and weary by the violence that surrounds us and the violence and fear that dwells within us. 
We come to you, confessing that we perpetuate violence by denying its very presence in our own lives and refusing to hold accountable the institutions that live and move by violent means. We come to you seeking mercy and forgiveness. Help us to name and claim all that separates us from you, from one another, and from the most vulnerable of your creation. 
We come to you, praying for guidance and wisdom, that we might see your way, delight in your will, live as Jesus did, loving neighbors as ourselves, and be your presence for healing and justice in this world. We pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, our Way, our Truth, and our Life. Amen. 

Used with permission. From the downloadable resource “Worship Resources Following Public Violence in American Cities,” Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2016.

You will find our 40-day adaptation here.

You will find the original ELCA version here.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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