VALENTINE’S DAY, SHROVE TUESDAY, ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT—TOSS IN THE KITCHEN SINK AND YOU’VE GOT THE
1. Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday and Shrove Tuesday were merged in this house this year. One spilled over, one was spilled into and one seemed to dominate the week—all making me wonder if what is really important is not the date or day of the week or even month or season but rather the moment or the essence of the experience.
2. I don’t do or like Shrove Tuesday. It feels like a pancake-laden New Year’s Eve to me. This year I skipped it. Stayed at home with my Valentine.
3a. I’ve come to rethink Ash Wednesday as well. Last year, I led the early morning service at the Episcopal Church I serve on Sunday nights. It was a beautiful service—solemn, serene, deeply moving. But last year I listened closely to the words I was saying instead of letting them wash over me as I usually do and found I didn’t believe many of them. Then I led an abbreviated Ash Wednesday service at the homeless shelter where I serve on Sunday mornings. What a difference. The collect we used came from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer and the reading was from Isaiah.
3b. Walter Brueggemann speaks the moment, the season of Ash Wednesday better than anyone I know. Here’s his poem/prayer:
Marked by Ashes
Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.
This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.
We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.
On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.
We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.
4. You’ll find my plans for Lent embedded in the posting below.
5. Howard Thurman—always Howard Thurman no matter what the season. Though I think the poem above—“Marked by Ashes”–is a good keel for the season of Lent.