Ash Wednesday: The Changing Drama of a day

Earlier, I posted a photo showing what the Capitol looked like at 6:45 this morning. We received an unexpected snowfall. I wasn’t sure at 6:55 that anyone would make it to our 7:00 service, but a few hardy souls arrived. The beauty and silence of our surroundings made our worship meaningful, allowing us to reflect on the day, our human nature, and the God who created us. I had prepared a homily, but instead of preaching it, I reflected on our human nature, laid bare for us in the ashes of Ash Wednesday, and in the love of the God who created us.

What a difference eleven hours makes. It was obvious from the noise outside that as we prepared for our 6:00 pm service, things were heating up. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hoped to use the Joel reading to think about the  significance of social and communal sin.

I’m not sure it worked, but the incongruity of it all struck home after the exhortation (“An Invitation to a Holy Lent”). There is an instruction in the prayer book for silence following the exhortation and before the imposition of ashes. We kept the rubric, but there was no silence. We could hear the chants from the capitol, but even more distracting were the horns of passing cars.

We could still hear the chants and the horns as we began the Litany and prayed:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

To put the debates over the budget and collective bargaining in the context of Ash Wednesday and Lent is no easy thing but knowing what is occurring outside our walls as we pray meant we were praying not only for ourselves but for our whole state.

The past weeks have been interesting, challenging, and incredibly stressful. Lent brings with it its own intensity. Given what happened tonight at the Capitol, the task of reconciliation will become even more difficult; our task as Christians, to respect the dignity of every human person, to love our neighbor as ourself (and our enemy as well), and in the midst of the cacophony, to trust in a God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

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