A Year Of Ash Wednesdays

By Ken Woodley

So this is Ash Wednesday?

Again.

It sometimes feels that the world has had 12 months of Ash Wednesdays, to go along with Ash Mondays and Tuesdays that preceded Ash Thursdays and Fridays, that came just before Ash Saturdays and, sadly, Ash Sundays, as well.
I’m not going to miss having ashes rubbed into my forehead tonight because the past year has covered me with its ashes from head to toe.
Instead, I want those ashes washed from the entirety of my body.
But even if it were possible to wash them all away, they’d only come right back because there are ashes everywhere.
The ashes have touched everyone and everything in some way over the past 12 months.
The pandemic has seemed to take all of the biggest and brightest colors in the world and break them into little pieces.
Broken pieces for the broken days and broken weeks and months in a broken year.
Indeed, there have been times when it felt like the relentless and remorseless ashes were the alpha and the omega. That in the beginning there were ashes, only ashes, and that ashes covered the day, that ashes smothered the sun, turning the day into night.
But that is not the truth.
That would be a lie.
We will not fall prey to that deception.
We will pray and rise in truth.
For there is, as always, one among us whom we cannot see but we can surely feel.
Right here. And now.

So let the ashes remind us of the flame.

Because the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not be in want.
But let us not lie down in green pastures alone,
nor sit in solitude beside the still waters,
because the valley of the shadow of death
is filled with countless souls who need to feel
the comfort of his rod and staff,
who need to eat from the table
and feel their head anointed with oil,
their cup overflowing,
and that they, too, have goodness and love
dogging their every footstep
on the way to the house of the Lord.

So let our ashes help remind them of the flame.
For surely one day the wolf will lie with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the goat,
The calf and lion and the yearling together.

And may the wolves and the lambs,
the leopards and the goats,
the calves and the lions and the yearlings
begin their journey toward one another,
not just out in the world,
but deep within us,
because that is how the kingdom of heaven
begins to enter the world.
And oh how the world needs that.

So let the ashes remind us of the flame.

Because COVID-19 has not been alone in dumping ashes across our landscape here in America. Even when hope about effective vaccines began to blossom as 2020 was coming to a close, the flowers of our democracy were trampled.
The results of the presidential election were questioned and then attacked by those who sought to overturn the will of the American people. The horror movie we’d all been living since last March took on even more apocalyptic dimensions with mob violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that threatened the very foundations of this nation.
The scenes, and what they meant, were truly frightening. It was a domestic 9-11. I heard words spoken and saw misdeeds done that I never could have imagined taking place in this country. COVID-19 wasn’t the only virus stalking our land.
But there are other words calling us to other deeds and the voice of Jesus in the The Beatitudes has never rung with deeper resonance.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God.
May the wings of those angels have our hearts and minds,
may they have our arms and legs
on our Lenten journey, and on every journey.

And may the ashes remind us of the flame because, while there are vaccines for COVID-19, there is no vaccination against the dark side of human nature.
Yes, the pandemic did seem to take all of the world’s biggest brightest colors and break them into little pieces, and subsequent political events broke them even more.
But that gives all of us the chance to turn them into stained glass windows so that the sun may shine through us all into a world too filled with darkness.
So let the ashes remind us of the flame.
And may we all flicker brightly as a light for all the world.
As Jesus hoped we would.

By Ken Woodley


So this is Ash Wednesday?

Again.

It sometimes feels that the world has had 12 months of Ash Wednesdays, to go along with Ash Mondays and Tuesdays that preceded Ash Thursdays and Fridays, that came just before Ash Saturdays and, sadly, Ash Sundays, as well.
I’m not going to miss having ashes rubbed into my forehead tonight because the past year has covered me with its ashes from head to toe.
Instead, I want those ashes washed from the entirety of my body.
But even if it were possible to wash them all away, they’d only come right back because there are ashes everywhere.
The ashes have touched everyone and everything in some way over the past 12 months.
The pandemic has seemed to take all of the biggest and brightest colors in the world and break them into little pieces.
Broken pieces for the broken days and broken weeks and months in a broken year.
Indeed, there have been times when it felt like the relentless and remorseless ashes were the alpha and the omega. That in the beginning there were ashes, only ashes, and that ashes covered the day, that ashes smothered the sun, turning the day into night.
But that is not the truth.
That would be a lie.
We will not fall prey to that deception.
We will pray and rise in truth.
For there is, as always, one among us whom we cannot see but we can surely feel.
Right here. And now.

So let the ashes remind us of the flame.

Because the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not be in want.
But let us not lie down in green pastures alone,
nor sit in solitude beside the still waters,
because the valley of the shadow of death
is filled with countless souls who need to feel
the comfort of his rod and staff,
who need to eat from the table
and feel their head anointed with oil,
their cup overflowing,
and that they, too, have goodness and love
dogging their every footstep
on the way to the house of the Lord.

So let our ashes help remind them of the flame.

For surely one day the wolf will lie with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the goat,
The calf and lion and the yearling together.

And may the wolves and the lambs,
the leopards and the goats,
the calves and the lions and the yearlings
begin their journey toward one another,
not just out in the world,
but deep within us,
because that is how the kingdom of heaven
begins to enter the world.
And oh how the world needs that.

So let the ashes remind us of the flame.

Because COVID-19 has not been alone in dumping ashes across our landscape here in America. Even when hope about effective vaccines began to blossom as 2020 was coming to a close, the flowers of our democracy were trampled.
The results of the presidential election were questioned and then attacked by those who sought to overturn the will of the American people. The horror movie we’d all been living since last March took on even more apocalyptic dimensions with mob violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that threatened the very foundations of this nation.
The scenes, and what they meant, were truly frightening. It was a domestic 9-11. I heard words spoken and saw misdeeds done that I never could have imagined taking place in this country. COVID-19 wasn’t the only virus stalking our land.
But there are other words calling us to other deeds and the voice of Jesus in the The Beatitudes has never rung with deeper resonance.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God.
May the wings of those angels have our hearts and minds,
may they have our arms and legs
on our Lenten journey, and on every journey.

And may the ashes remind us of the flame because, while there are vaccines for COVID-19, there is no vaccination against the dark side of human nature.
Yes, the pandemic did seem to take all of the world’s biggest brightest colors and break them into little pieces, and subsequent political events broke them even more.
But that gives all of us the chance to turn them into stained glass windows so that the sun may shine through us all into a world too filled with darkness.
So let the ashes remind us of the flame.
And may we all flicker brightly as a light for all the world.
As Jesus hoped we would.





4 thoughts on “A Year Of Ash Wednesdays

  1. Good words that we needed to hear. I Especially homed down on moving from ashes to the flame itself. I’ll be reading it again tomorrow morning on Ash Wednesday itself, so thank you, Ken. Bob

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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