We are hearing about the freezing temperatures in various places (including our own), the unprecedented lack of electricity and water in places like Texas. I see posts of my former youth in Oregon going on their 6th night of “camping” without electricity in their homes. With this new “adventure,” the double pandemic, polarizing politics, and on and on…
…are we really able to ponder the death and dust of Lent right now?
I’m as into liturgical (church) seasons as many Protestants (we’ll never hold a candle to the passion of Roman Catholics or Orthodox friends), yet it seems harsh to step into the pool of mortality and ashes in such a turbulent season of our world. Can we mentally handle it, should we?
So what makes sense right now, ashes or glitter?
As a pastor, I have a ping of guilt asking this question, just as our Lenten season has begun. I ate a LOT of blueberry pancakes on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, and I was all ready to throw on my sackcloth and wade through 40 days of Lent…our mortality, the darkness, the stillness. YET…the truth is, you and I might have been “Lenting and lamenting” for the past 11 months. We have been letting go and grieving while rubbing our eyes from an overabundance of screen time and a famine of in-person family & friend time. We are exhausted.
And THIS is where Lent can begin…in our exhaustion, grief of what we long for, deep hope for goodness that will come.
I don’t need to remind you that life is finite; whisper the word “ventilator” and we all stiffen with a real, legitimate fear. No one needs to say “God is in control” to you, when this world – both people and planet – seem really out of control. And you don’t need ashes – you have a pile of masks, after all – that remind you that you are dust, and to dust we will all, someday, return. My pastor friend, Natalie, mentioned a few days ago on Facebook that she would be digging out the glitter this year for her children instead of ashes because of such. Glitter Ash Wednesday has also been a way that some in the queer community celebrate identity in Christ and in fully belonging. And glitter is simply HAPPY – a party ensues whenever it is tossed around. (Just be sure to avoid your eyes or hair.) Since glitter isn’t super practical for everyday life (and our beloved custodian, Gary, doesn’t love vacuuming up glitter, so I hear), I’ll turn to a mask instead.
Today, when I briefly leave my home, I will wear my mask proudly. Because THIS is my reminder of ashes, that life is precious, that life will keep moving. THIS is my reminder of God’s promise to be present with us in the muck and through our fears.
We are tired of these masks. They make it difficult to breathe at times, and they are a constant reminder of boundaries put in place to keep us as safe as possible. Yet this mask is a glitter dusting of love and care that I can offer to my neighbor, electrician who stops by and to the nearby grocery store customers in the aisle. They are worth this mask. And while I grab my mask from the counter or the car, I can draw with my finger a little cross like we do on Ash Wednesday.
As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who revere God. God knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of dust. – Psalm 103:13-14
This life is precious. This is how I will journey through Lent this year. What about you?
So whether you can handle covering yourself in ashes, like early Christians did as they grieved, or you need a sprinkle of glitter, do this. Live in Lent, lean into the journey that we Keep. On. Moving. God, may we keep Listening to Lent.
Happy Friday! Stay warm, and may we walk this lenten path together.