God, I’ve been living with ashes in my mouth for over a year now.
And though they are bitter and continue to color every single aspect of my day,
I find that I cannot spit them out. For you have put them there, Lord
Living with death is hard–it’s why family parlors became living rooms
It’s why death was exported from homes and churches to funeral homes
Because it’s tough to see just how fragile humanity is.
Is this like white fragility and male fragility? This mortality thing? Do we ignore it because we, mistakenly, think it makes us stronger?
And then in comes the Christ: an openly weeping male, here comes Christ who sits with the sick and the weak and the disabled and the young and the dying.
Here comes Christ, with dust in his hair and dust on his feet, and ashes in his mouth. Tasting his death for all three years of his ministry.
A taste, he too can’t spit out. A taste that when he tries to draw attention to it, or share it with his disciples, it is rejected.
How did it feel, Jesus, when Mary took a moment to sit with you in the dust, and to wash as much as it as she could off, and then to wipe it clean with her own hair? Mary–whose own brother had died–Mary was the one who was able to sit with you in the dust.
How did it taste, Lord? To drink the wine and eat the bread of resurrection, while the taste of ashes was probably at its’ strongest? Did Peter taste it? Or James or John? Did Matthew and Mark feel the grains upon their tongue? Was Luke aware of its dusty origin? Did Judas recognize the taste of death upon his tongue?
And that night in the garden, when the sand of sleep overpowered the disciples, did you feel the dust in the corner of your eyes? Did you wipe it away, or had you learned to live with it by then?
God, I’ve been living with ashes in my mouth all year, and we are going to enter the season of death, of ashes, of the dirty, dusty path to Jerusalem. And so I pray, that I learn to live and learn how to learn a little more from my own mortality.
I pray that some of the taste of ash is eased with the taste of the living waters of baptism and resurrection.
I’m tired of living with ashes on my tongue, God.
But here we are.
Help me to taste the truth and good news even among the ashes, I pray.
Feel free to use/adapt with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
Art by Beatrice Stenta
Lord, you are the God of Ashes. So that when food tastes like dust upon the tongue, When we feel grubby and soiled, when we feel defeated—you’ve already been there. taking the long walk to death, walking grubby, dry-mouthed and alone. And you invite us, each and every year, to take the journey with you, so that neither of us are alone. You invite us to walk in our own stumbling way, with our own deaths. And you remind us—that we are but dust and to dust we will return. And it’s good to remember and process that fact. Because though we are dust, we are also the beloved siblings of Christ. And so, we will walk the path to Jerusalem together, because it is a journey worth taking. Be with us and we journey we pray, O God. Amen.
For the Complete List of Narrative Lectionary Lent Resources can be found here including a way to receive a doc copy
Journeying towards Death
Jesus Turns to Jerusalem
Call to Worship
Who can follow you to Jerusalem Jesus?
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head
God, may we each find a sanctuary space today.
Let us begin the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus Christ today.
The time for Lent and death stretches us before us.
Come let us walk with God today.
Invitation: God will give heed to our sighing, come let us bring our sighs to the Lord.
Prayer of Confession: God our sighs are loud and our cries sound out. We feel trauma of these times. But we know, you long with us for our suffering to end. You do not delight in any wickedness. We confess that we do not know how to journey to Jerusalem with you. We are lost before the journey even begins. Help us to find the way we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: God it is through the abundance of your steadfast love, I will enter your house. It is by the grace of God, that we can be assured of the truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Prayer of the Day/Dedication: Lord, let us experience the ashes with all that they entail. Let the be the beginning of our relenting: of power, of materialism, of individual achievement over the good of the community. Let us relent to Lent we pray. Amen.
Communion Prayer: Holy Spirit, come and inspire us for this journey. When it feels like forty days in the desert: fortify us with your bread and your cup. Imbue this meal with your Holy Spirit so we can be nourished for the journey. Remind us that when we celebrate Christ’s death, we are also celebrating his life and his resurrection. Give us what we need for this journey through Lent we pray. Amen.
Hymns: In the Garden, Come Thou Fount of Ever Blessing, What Wondrous Love Is This,
Taize: Jesus, Remember Me
For the Complete List of Narrative Lectionary Lent Resources can be found here including a way to receive a doc copy
Jesus went with the disciples teaching them, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”
And the Disciples Kept silent.
Prayer of Confession: Lord we confess that we do not understand, fully, why it is you had to die. We do not understand why you were betrayed by human hands, and we do not understand how it is you rose again. But we do know while we kept silent our bodies wasted away and we groaned all day long.
Taize Option: Lord here my Prayer, Hymn Option: What Wondrous Love is This v. 1
Help us to live with our lacks and to lean into why you came: to teach, to heal, to die and to forgive our sins. Help us live fully with who we are.
(Write down what Jesus has taught you, who you are, what you want to hang onto)
Taize Option: Bless the Lord My Soul Hymn Option: What Wondrous Love is This v 2.
And let us once again confess our full selves to you so they may once again be forgiven.
Writing down Confession of sin on another piece of paper
Taize Option: Jesus Remember Me Hymn Option: What Wondrous Love is This v. 3
(Collect to trash, burn, rip up)
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Let us know the truth, as short and imperfect as life is. Remember that you are always and forgiven. Thanks be to God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Imposition of Ashes
I have been feeling the #relentless-ness of life this season. The relentlessness of the news cycle, telling me over and over how broken we are…
The Jewish Community Center daycares receiving bombthreats
The 7 Trans women who have been murdered
The queer couples who married quickly, just in case
The travelers who are being detained and kept from their families
The need for young transpeople to go to the bathroom safely
The international relationships that are in peril
The Jewish cemeteries being desecrated
The Dakota Pipeline camps being cleared out
Ministry, is about life, which means that there is seldom a “normal week” in the church. The best of ministry is open and adaptable, because Life is Relentless. The basement pipe leaks, then a member is ill and dies, then the governing body is borrowing your building for a meeting, then your board member steps down. This is church, its imperfect, because its alive. Its real, because it reflects real life, its about the imperfections and love in the midst of the daily-ness.
Relentless, means “unmerciful” and “heartless” and “unforgiving” Life is indeed relentless.
Lent, then is the season of the opposite.
Its the season of “have mercy on me O God” the season of God’s “steadfast love” the season of “abundant mercy.” Its the season of pause and reflection. Its the wait and see, its the celebration of the journey.
And I am aching for this season. The restoration of Joy, because only God can provide Joy in this time of weary sin. Only God can sustain a spirit of willingness.
Good thing you like broken spirits, God, cause thats what I got. Brokenness and Hope.
Lent & Relentlessness
“Invitation to Lent” Author Rev. Mary Austin
Feel free to use/edit. Credit to the original author (i.e. based on prayer/prayers written by Rev Mary Austin) appreciated.
Ash Wednesday is for when all four of your checks hit after the bank closes but before you can put your husband’s check in, including the really big rent check, and they therefore all BOUNCE!
Ash Wednesday is for your four year old child throwing up all over the house, and not quite getting the try to aim for the bowl or the toilet concept
Its for your special needs kid being better focused in class, even as you worry about his continual bad smell
Its for losing your voice on the night the pastor has to lead service
Its for your eldest who is struggling to concentrate getting a good email from the teacher.
Ash Wednesday is to lay out your whole self before God
To confess yourself, not to feel ashamed, but to be able to see yourself as God’s beloved
The very act of owning who you are and your reality, the act of being you as God’s, frees you to be reflective of God.
I confess myself and seek God…because to me, they are the same thing….
Ps 34:4-5 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
We are brief, like flowers, like a breath of air.
We are mortal, here one moment and gone the next.
It is amazing to think that the same God who is eternal, the one who created rocks and trees that last hundreds or thousands of years, the ones who crafted the heavens that seem to be billions of years old created us as temporal beings.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them? ” Ps 8:3
Death is real for us–it is a real part of our existence, but we our lives matter. God created us and then God sent Christ to us. Even though we are not perfect and live only a short while.
Christ baptized us, marking us, tagging us as His. Like writing a name on the bottom of a favorite toy, we are marked. Marked by the cross, reminded that God takes care of us and is particularly present to us. When we are baptized, we die with Christ, we rise with him, and we live into the fact that we are the be-loved children of God–adopted into God’s family, covenanted through Christ.
And this is important because our lives are short.
And we are not perfect–my 6 year old son has just realized he is not perfect, and he never will be. He shuts himself up in his room and cries about it. When he makes a mistake, he mourns it.
And because bad things happen in our lives, we have to deal with real things and real evil and God knows that we have to deal with all this.
Do you know what I do when my son cries forlornly all alone?
I go to him, I sit with him, I hug him and comfort him. I tell him I will love him no matter what. I know he’s not perfect, and that’s ok, because I love him.
Isn’t that what God did when we were sad, broken and alone ever-realizing our imperfection. God gathers us in Her arms, hugs & comforts us and tells us–we are not perfect, but God loves us no matter what–God loved us when we were Ash and will love us when we become Ash again.
Us humans wish we were perfect, but God made us something better than perfect–God made us loved.