It was very picturesque -- everything all covered in white, tree trunks included (though admittedly there were already grey portions some plcases from where snowblowers/plows had come by). And there was a big snow person in the Tufts park -- complete with arms and face made from branches and bits of pine.
At morning prayer service, FCS-Ian had put out slips of paper with the readings in case anyone wanted to volunteer to read.
(Hebrew Scripture) Hebrews 12:1-14
(Gospel) Luke 18:9-14
I said, "You know the book of Hebrews isn't actually part of the Hebrew Scriptures."
He said he was using a Presbyterian lectionary because he decided he didn't like the UCC's one, and it had a second reading and it didn't occur to him until later that it wasn't actually an Old Testament book, at which he wasn't going to go back and change it. He asked if I had come prepared with a Hebrew Scripture reading that's actually from the Hebrew Scriptures. I said I had indeed brought my RCL, so I looked up what those would be and compared in the NRSV I'd picked up in the chapel. I left the slips of paper where they were, so if anyone wanted to they could have picked them up, but no one did.
I decided I liked the Joel passage better than the Hebrews passage (yes, I did skim the Isaiah passage), so when we got to the Scripture reading portion I read that. And then I said, "Am I reading the Gospel, too?" and he was kinda like, "If you want," and so I read the RCL, because that's what I had in my lap. I hadn't looked up the Presbyterian Gospel reading (because I'd assumed FCS-Ian would be reading it), and in looking it up now I feel a little bit like I should have, because the Matthew passage is read at every Ash Wednesday service, and the Luke passage is really quite good. But we had some good thoughts/conversation on the Matthew passage.
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
FCS-Ian commented on the Joel passage -- about how "the day of the Lord is coming" usually makes him fearful, but it ends with this reminder that this is for rejoicing.
Various people (we had a full house -- Ian, me, Joan, Tim, Althea, Jason D., and Zack and Lisa) commented on the tension with the Matthew passage -- since we are elsewhere exhorted to things like "Don't hide your light under a bushel." Intentions matter.
Jason D. did the Imposition of Ashes and said, "You are ashes, and to ashes you will return."
I prefer, "From dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return." That formulation of us being from the earth without the implication that that is all we are (I'm fine with using non-KJV speak, and using dust/earth/ash/whatever).
It irritated me from the first time I saw it in the subway window reflection that it looked more like a smudge than a cross, though on closer inspection you can see the full cross.
FCS-Ian says we're gonna do Imposition of Ashes every Wednesday -- but they'll be self-imposed; you can do them on your hand or whatever.
I'd expected that my morning ashes would come off because I was doing cardio at the gym afterward, but I was actually careful not to smudge it and since it didn't sweat off itself I left it alone. In part I was thinking about something Ari had said a while ago about the cross necklace that she wears -- about it being the mark of her Savior. Yes, the ashes are a reminder of our mortality, reminding us to be humble (when I told Ian this, he said, "You need ashes," and I laughed and said, "YOU need ashes"), but I also really like the fact that we are marked with a mark of our Redemption. We are named and claimed -- bright, brilliant, beloved children of God.
Let's count how many times I can be Christian Educator this season.
(1) At The Cathedral's pancake supper, Christy (who came with Michael Z. -- who was also at the supper -- to hear me preach last month) sat with me. I talked some about Tiffany's departure, which turned into my talking about the appointment process (which I had also had to explain to therapist that afternoon -- when I told her about Tiffany leaving, she asked, "Are you on the search committee?"). She said she's actually a United Methodist, but she doesn't know much about how it works, so she (genuinely) thanked me for educating her.
(1a) After morning service, I walked to the T with Lisa and Zack. Lisa asked me about my church [someone had asked FCS-Ian if he'd be at tonight's Ash Wednesday service and he said yes; when I was leaving, I told him I'd see him tomorrow morning, that I wouldn't be at the Ash Wednesday service tonight because I'd be at the one at my church -- after I'd said it, I almost backtracked and said, "my other church," but honestly, CWM is "my church"], and so I explained some.
(2) After the TGM this morning, Sara said, "Happy Ash Wednesday." I automatically responded, "You too," before I remembered that she's Jewish. She said, "Wait, should I have not said 'Happy'? Was that a major faux pas?" I said no, it was fine (I said, "It's not like you said, 'Happy Good Friday,'" and she looked really confused at that), and explained (briefly) about Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent.
(3) Ian walked by and said, "You've got something on your forehead." I said, "It's Ash Wednesday."
I started to explain and then stopped, thinking maybe he was just being deadpan. (I really need to school myself on what Mormon kids get taught so that I know what I can reasonably expect him to know. Apparently they don't do Ash Wednesday.) But I think he was being serious, and so I kept on explaining. (Of course, two more times throughout the day he said, "You've got something on your forehead." I made as if to flip him off both times.)
(3a) Ranjan walked by and saw me and said, "Oh, Ash Wednesday."
(3b) Jim came to pick up his mail and said, "I think you have a smudge on your forehead." I said, "It's Ash Wednesday." He was like, "Oh, right, I should have known that." I said, "It's okay -- it's not your liturgical calendar" [he's Jewish]. He said he grew up around it, so he still should have known.
[All the item 3's happened between 9:30 and 10:00 in the morning.]
(!4) Scott came back from class ~3pm and we hugged and he told me a story and he noticed my forehead and off his confused look I said, "It's Ash Wednesday," only by the time I said it he'd moved to looking down solemnly and making prayer hands, and so when he replied, "I know -- I was just trying to come up with a sympathetic gesture" [which explains the initial confusion I read] I said, "Yeah, I've just gotten so used to explaining it to people that I'd forgotten that this morning when I was explaining I was thinking, 'I won't have to explain to Scott.'" I told him about Jim's response and that conversation, and Scott said, "Well it's not part of my liturgical calendar either, but I've seen people walking around with ashes all day, and so eventually it occurred to me: Ash Wednesday -- it is a Wednesday, we're at about that place in the year..."
Allie and I had a ~brief dinner before I went to my second service of the day, and at dinner she asked, "How was service?" because she grew up Catholic and so of course she knew wherefore the ashes.
I wiped the ashes off my forehead before going to CWM -- 'cause yeah, I was not going to show up for an Imposition of Ashes with ashes already on my forehead.
Annie modified the 2 Corinthians reading for the Call to Worship, and then read aloud were "Oh, God, create a clean heart in me, and renew in me a steadfast spirit" (from Psalm 51) and Matthew 6:19-21.
Annie invited us to reflect:
How can we change our mode of thinking from either "storing up" and hoarding, or focusing on "heaven"? Is there a way to live authentically in the here and the now, focusing on how our actions affect all of our relationships--- our relationship with ourself, with God, with other conscious beings, with all of creation? In what actions will we engage to stretch our understandings and to help change and repair the fruitless, even harmful, paths we have followed in the past?Tallessyn's studying environmental ethics, and she talked about garbage, about how things don't magically go away, and how we shouldn't live our lives with things that we have to try to find ways to make magically disappear.
Trevanna talked about vision quests, about how a 40-day vision quest is a powerful practice that shows up in a lot of cultures, and that one thing a vision quest reveals/reminds is about oneness.
We talked some about the fuller version of the Matthew reading (I talked some about the reflection conversation at service this morning). Marla said that it's not the Catholic reading -- that it was put in as an anti-Catholic thing. According to the RCL, we all read the same Gospel lesson (the RC only elides the part about storing up treasure), so I dunno -- since I can't speak to the Catholic lectionary pre-RCL.
Eric talked about the "stretch our understandings" bit, and Michele talked about the relationship bit (again, about interconnectedness), and people talked about taking care of and being attentive to themselves rather than just to other people.
Celebrating Our HumanityThese crosses were way more visible than the ones we got this morning. Marla said these were much more watery because they didn't have much ash so they had to make it stretch. Tallessyn ended up with like a lambda on her forehead, because Marla had ashed her while Tallessyn was playing the piano and singing.
As we receive ashes, placed upon our foreheads, let us remember that we are formed from the earth and we will return to the earth, being a part of both the past and the future. Therefore, we speak words that hold truth, but should never hold fear, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Let us resolve to live more fruitfully in the present.
We did Communion, complete with Words of Institution that echoed the words and ideas from the
Our closing hymn was "Here Am I" (Brian Wren), which TFWS places under "Grace," though I feel like it better fits the facing page theme of "Social Holiness." [Edit: You can check it our yourself here.]
We realized after the service that we hadn't done Passing of the Peace (Annie had set aside some silent time for prayer between the Reflection and the Ashes -- she'd forgotten to actually mark it in the bulletin because as far as she's concerned, all of worship service is an act of prayer) so we hugged then :)
Call to Worship
[One] We are called to be ambassadors to the world
[All] To bring great news of justice, reconciliation, and peace
[One] As in the past, we hear the voice o God, saying "Nos is the acceptable time! Now is the day of God's grace!"
[All] Let us, in a spirit of justice and truth, present ourselves as ministers of Love, called by God.
[One] We will be called imposters,
[All] Yet we will remain truthful
[One] We will be called unknowns,
[All] Yet we are famous
[One] We are said to be dying,
[All] Yet we are alive
[One] Then let us be about the work of this season
[All] Seeming to have nothing, we possess all we need, and that is Love!
Sunday's Palms Are Wednesday's Ashes
Sunday's palms are Wednesday's ashes as another Lent begins;
We have marred baptismal pledges,
["]We have failed to love our neighbors, their offen[s]es to forgive,
[W]e are jealous, proud, impatient, loving overmuch our things;
["]We are hasty to judge others, blind to proof of human need;
and our lack of understanding demonstrates our inner greed;
we have wasted earth's resources; want and suffering we've ignored;