I don’t know if this took anyone else by surprise — or perhaps some do not even note the liturgical calendar — but suddenly it is /was Ash Wednesday, that day which marks the start of the season of Lent. That season of letting go, of saying “no,” of “fasting,” of saying “yes,” of “adding” into our lives practices which might assist us with becoming ready for Jesus.
The thing that surprises me is that it has come. Certainly, I knew it was coming, I have prepared for it, I was co-leading a worship time that evening to mark it, but still that it was here was remarkable. “Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t we just celebrate His birth?” asked a member of my worship team this morning. Indeed.
It seems that time flies. Time even when trudging on a trail flies in a different way. One step at a time we reach the destination.
I still remember the sense of “how can this be?” as I walked into Santiago after that million step journey on the Camino. How could I actually be arriving? Was that season really at an end?
So, I feel similarly as I walk in life. Some days are staggering in their immensity. They seem to go on for the longest time. Yesterday began with an early morning meeting and ended at the hospital as I sat next to my 95 yo mother-in-law while she ate her dinner having been rushed there. I got home at 10 pm. Days are like that.
So, On Ash Wednesday there I was, surprised to be there.
As I imposed ashes on those filing forward at the close of the night, I said their name, and pronounced this over them:
“You have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. And this life you now live in the flesh, live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself up for you.”
“Anna, you have been crucified with Christ…”
“Elsa, you have been crucified with Christ…”
(Yes, these two older women were named those names made popular by Frozen!)
Again, and again, declaring death and life over each one.
It was this immense repeated reminder of the fact that time does pass and eventually we all die, as we depart this life and enter the next.
And it reminded me that I too live this life as one who has died. Died to sin, to fear, to defeat, to loneliness, to self. Death is a freeing gift in that light. Life lived by Another living through us, that’s a picture.
Time is passing. On 2.28 I have four months left in the church where I’ve served as pastor for 11 years. It is a death. A grief. A departure. Little deaths. But with each death there’s also new life.
I’m learning how to allow that Other to live through me. It is not I who live, but Christ who lives through me.
Picture that and live it.