Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic theologian, wrote:
We worshiped Jesus instead of following him on his same path.
We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey towards union with God and everything else.
This shift made us into a religion of “belonging and believing” instead of a religion of transformation.
Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a transformational journey toward union with God, neighbor, and beyond.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that our physical bodies, minds, and lives are temporary, a blink of the eye, for ‘from dust [we] came and to dust [we] shall return’. And yet, we strive to extend our delusional existence built upon pride, ego, and presumed righteousness.
The honest truth is simple. We are beautifully flawed and broken people, who live among our beautifully flawed and broken human siblings, in our beautifully flawed and broken communities, nations, and creation. It is our flaws and brokenness that separates us from our neighbors and God.
Lent is the life-giving journey into the darkest depth of our flawed, broken, and sinful messy selves.
It is a journey that demands vulnerability as we confront the reflection in the mirror proclaiming:
- I am human.
- I am flawed and broken.
- I am a sinner.
Lent is a literal ‘Come to Jesus’ journey re-prioritizing our time, energy, resources, and entire life toward reconciliation with God and neighbor through vulnerable soul searching, re-directing our attention to the cross of Jesus the Christ, and responding to the grace of God beyond comprehension.
Lent is a journey that burns our pride, ego, and presumed righteousness into ash.
Lent is a journey that burns our personal flaws, brokenness, and sin into ash.
Lent is a journey that burns our communal flaws, brokenness, and sin into ash.
These flaws, brokenness, and sin, includes but are not limited to:
- Injustice and Oppression;
- Heartlessness and Indifference,
- Prejudice and Hatred,
- Frustration and Anger;
- Violence and Suffering; and
- Self-Centeredness or ‘sin’.
It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed selves can rise anew.
It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed communities can rise anew.
It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed world can rise anew.
Lent is a transformative journey.
Although still flawed, we are raised from the ashes stronger and bolder in new life with Jesus the Christ.
Although still flawed, we are raised from the ashes stronger and bolder into the persons, communities, and world that the Triune God has, is, and will continue to call us to be.
As a proud daughter of Arizona, I cannot deny the imagery of the Phoenix who self-combusts, becomes ash, and then rises again from the ashes stronger than before. And so, we came from ashes, we are called to die to the self, we return to ash, and we rise from said ash by the grace of God alone transformed further into the one God has, is, and will continue to call us to be.
And yet, this process of burning our pride, ego, presumed righteousness, self-centeredness (sin), and distractions in order to be resurrected again is a re-occurring, life-long process until the moment of our earthly deaths.This transformational journey is new life, a resurrection, more deeply into our baptismal vocations to:
- Proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation;
- Seek justice and honest peace;
- Act with compassion and mercy; and
- Love and serve all people.
Lent is a life-giving, ‘Come to Jesus’, transformative journey.
As we enter into this journey, may we reflect upon our need for God and God’s transforming grace.
As we enter into this journey, may we repent from pride, ego, presumed righteousness, and sin.
As we enter into this journey, may we reconcile with God and neighbor alike.
As we enter into this journey, may we be restored by the love, mercy, and grace of God.
Similar to the Phoenix, may we be raised from the ashes stronger and bolder by God’s grace alone.
Scriptures were Isaiah 58: 1-12 and Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.
Originally preached 17 February 2021 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).