Lenten Meditation 2018: A Reflection on Ash Wednesday

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (CEV)

Everything on earth
has its own time
   and its own season.
2 There is a time
for birth and death,
   planting and reaping,
3 for killing and healing,
   destroying and building,
4 for crying and laughing,
   weeping and dancing,
5 for throwing stones
and gathering stones,
   embracing and parting.
6 There is a time
for finding and losing,
   keeping and giving,
7 for tearing and sewing,
   listening and speaking.
8 There is also a time
for love and hate,
   for war and peace.

9 What do we gain by all of our hard work? 10 I have seen what difficult things God demands of us. 11 God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can ever fully understand all he has done, and he puts questions in our minds about the past and the future. 12 I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, 13 because God’s gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. 14 Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed. God has done all this, so that we will worship him.

15 Everything that happens
   has happened before,
and all that will be
   has already been—
God does everything
   over and over again.[a]

As I write this Ash Wednesday has come and gone in both my adopted home of Australia and my birth home of the United States.  I have been thinking about Ash Wednesday quite a bit leading up to yesterday.  Early this morning I received an email from Redeemer Church in Indianapolis (my sending church) with a link to their Ash Wednesday Worship Folder.  It was great to read through the songs and the readings.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  There are those who give things up for Lent and there are those who add a spiritual practise during Lent.  Then there are those who are trying to figure out why some many people have dirty foreheads and why would anyone give up something as good as sugar or beer.  

Ecclesiastes 3:20 will be quoted or alluded to in most Ash Wednesday service.  All go to the same end.  You are from dust and to dust you will return.  The beginning of that passage lays out that there is a time for everything.  It would make a good song lyric. Giving things up and taking things on.  Seasons of life.  Rhythm and ritual. Everything has a season and we have a hard time figuring out the purpose of it all.  It may seem like the best thing we can do is just enjoy life.  Eat and Drink and work for tomorrow we may die, as the purveyor of wisdom in Ecclesiastes says.  It can get pretty desperate at times.  We want to fight back and scream at the top of our lungs, “There shouldn’t be a time for that!”  as the news of another school shooting comes across the wire, a politician who can’t keep a commitment to his wife and family is found out, a broken relationship or recurring illness that devastates. “There shouldn’t be a time for that!”  

So we sit in the darkness of our own understanding.  We lay down with heaviness hoping that the dawn will bring brightness.  We desire to pick up justice and put down haughtiness.  We desire to pick up peace and put down animosity.  We desire to put down destroying words and pick up encouragement.  We desire to put down ego and pick up compassion.   And we wonder what is it that a good God has done that last forever. We long to experience and believe that it is His everlasting, always pursuing, self-giving love. And we hope that it will mark our hearts even more than the ash on our forehead.  


Prayer: Father, give us eyes to see and ears to hear your pursuit of us and your song of love that you sing over us.  In tragedy give us peace to rest in your promise and courage to stand against injustice.  Let us know that all is not meaningless.  That Your work last forever. Amen

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