With all your heart, cries God through the prophet Joel.
With a clean heart, prays the psalmist.
With a heart set on heaven, teaches Jesus.
(And for those preachers whose hearts are set on using the Narrative Lectionary texts for Ash Wednesday, check out this reflection on Psalm 23 and John 10:1-18.)
Ash Wednesday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts sound the annual call to repentance and humility, to the remembrance of our dustiness in the presence of great holiness.
Often we preachers want to say something new, something fresh, something meaningfully tangible on Ash Wednesday, so we go in search of a metaphor: the Valentine’s Day heart, the ruin & renewal of a city, the laundry detergent pods (no, they should not be eaten to cleanse your heart), the buried treasures, the doom-and-gloom political landscape (oh wait, that’s not a metaphor) … and certainly metaphors are good, even essential to faith.
But in the end there is only dust, in all its humble limitations, with no metaphor to disguise it. And in the end there is only holiness, in all its ferocious grace, to which no metaphor can do justice.
Holiness at the end just as there was holiness at the beginning.
And dust. A lot of dust.
RevGals and Pals, how are you approaching the Ash Wednesday texts? Do you preach for Ash Wednesday service, or is your worship stripped down to liturgy and ritual? Do you have a favorite Ash Wednesday text that you hold onto as the Lenten journey begins? Share your Ash Wednesday prep & questions here in the comments, and encourage your colleagues toward this important day in our Church year.
Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, blogger, and soccer mom. Her upcoming book, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith) with co-author Martha Spong, wrestles for God’s answers to the hard questions of life.
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