A comment on my
recent rush-hour-communion post mentioned the Episcopal Church's recent practice of Ashes to Go, a form of "liturgical evangelism" that
has brought congregations out into streets, bus stations, train stations and
subway stations to dispense ashes on Ash Wednesday.
When I started
to read about Ashes to Go, I had many of the same questions that I brought to
early-morning communion. At first I thought, ashes to go? Whatever happened to
liturgy and community? Aren't we just feeding into our culture's unwillingness
to stop for anything at anytime? Can ashes really be offered like a fast food
item at a take out window?
But once again,
in the midst of these restless and protesting thoughts, another reality has
I’ll post on the lessons for Lent 1 for the rest of this week, but
today my thoughts are focused on what to preach for Ash Wednesday in a parish I don’t know very well. Ash Wednesday is probably a top-five
“liturgies that say more than any sermon ever could” service (with
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Ordinations).
A certain ritual of public
witness--thanking Jesus in the postgame interview, praising God for victory,
pointing heavenward after a score--has become routine behavior for devout
Christian athletes. Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is the most prominent
perhaps different approach--or perhaps not so different--may be emerging with
basketball player Jeremy Lin, who in recent weeks burst out of nowhere to
become a fan favorite on the New York Knicks.
Among Gospel epitomes I
especially love the Jesus prayer, the Agnus Dei and "When he ascended on high,
he led captivity captive"--the good news as I first heard it from Paul
(Ephesians 4:8) and Christ's Jubilee proclamation (Luke 4:18).
"Not God bless America, God damn America!" bellowed Jeremiah Wright from his former pulpit.
"That’s in the Bible for killing innocent people." This sermon
quote--actually, usually just the "God damn America" part, stripped of any
context whatsoever--created a media frenzy, earned death threats for
Wright and jeopardized a then-parishioner's presidential campaign.
"I don't think God will continue to bless America," said Rick Santorum the other day, "if we continue to kill 1.2 million children every year." Unlike Wright, Santorum is himself a candidate for president. Yet two days later Google offers mostly crickets.
Oh Peter, how I love thee. You make my craziness seem normal, thank you.
In the midst of the most amazing thing he had seen to this point, the
Transfiguration, Peter stops being present to the glory just long
enough to say, “Master, it good for us to be here. Let’s build three
dwellings: one for Elijah, one for Moses, and one for you.”