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FROM A REFLECTION GIVEN ON ASH WEDNESDAY.
By David Poultney in All Sorts
thoughts on how to embrace the promise that in death we are transformed into a new way of living; how to let the reality of our mortality awaken us to the beauty and the power of seizing the moment and living it to the fullest.FROM A REFLECTION GIVEN ON ASH WEDNESDAY
I am not sure we need ashes or Ash Wednesday this year to remind us of mortality. Not in a year dominated by a pandemic, the reason why, even if I wanted to, I cannot mark you with ashes today. Traditional Ash Wednesday worship would require us to focus on the brevity of life and remember that none of us will get out of this life alive. Our ancestors in the faith, entered into a morose season of Lent via the awesome reminder that they came from dust and soon they shall return to the dust. Lent was a season of lament and repentance based on a particular understanding of what it means to be human. Since the 11th century most of Christianity has understood the human condition as that of those who have fallen from grace. But we live in a post-modern world. We no longer believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans. We read Genesis not as history but as myth. We understand that humans evolved over millions of years. There was no perfect human condition for us to fall from. What happens when you reject the theological construct of original sin? What happens when you embrace the idea that we are fiercely and wonderfully made? What happens when you see humanity as originally blessed?
Once you open up Pandora’s box you can’t just walk back out of the room and pretend that the theory of evolution doesn’t have something to teach us about what it means to be human. If we see ourselves as incomplete creations rather than fallen sinful creatures, how then do we deal with our mortality? Perhaps we can begin to express what it means to be human in terms that reflect our need to evolve into all that we were created to be. Perhaps the brevity and uncertainty of life can begin to wake us up so that we can seize each and every moment of this incredible mystery that we call life. All that we love and care for is mortal and transitory, but mortality is the very reality that can become the inspiration for celebrate life and to love. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our human condition of mortality. But we should also remember the reality of creation itself is transformed by death and is constantly renewing itself. Today we embrace the promise that in death we are transformed into a new way of living on within the MYSTERY that is the LOVE we call God. Trusting that here and now we are living in the MYSTERY, we delight in the knowledge that in this MYSTERY that is God, we share in eternity; eternity – that which has no beginning and no end. We are constantly dying, but we are also constantly living as we give particular expression to an aspect of the LOVE that is God.
This day, this moment is eternity for the MYSTERY is here, revealed in the wonders of creation; in the face of our neighbours, in the beauty of the earth, in the magnitude of the universe and in the miracles of sub- atomic particles. Yes, we are dust, but we are earthly dust, springing forth from a multi-billion-year holy adventure. Dust is the stuff of life. Dust it is the place of fecundity, of moist dark soil, and perhaps we are as various scientists are suggesting: “star-dust” evolving creatures emerging from DIVINITY’s intergalactic creativity. We are frail, but we are also part of a holy adventure reflecting the LOVE that IS God over billions of years and in billions of galaxies. So, how can we fail to rejoice in the colour purple, or pause in wonder at a baby’s birth? How can we fail to enjoy the beauty of a sunset or the splendour of a mountain range? How can we fail to embrace the sorrows that surround us with love? How can we remain deaf to the cries of our neighbours, or the pleas of our enemies? Today is our wake-up call?
This is eternity; right here, right now!!! Let the ashes we receive be the ashes of transformation. Let the reality of our mortality awaken us to the beauty and the power of seizing the moment and living it to the fullest.
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Let the memory of your incomplete humanity awaken you to the wonders, joys, sorrows, pain and wonders of life. Embrace your MORTALITY! Embrace the dark recesses of MYSTERY, for in darkness we were formed in darkness new life is begun. Embrace life in the midst of the MYSTERY that IS DIVINITY beyond our knowing, who, is was, and evermore shall be our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE HERSELF Amen