A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about ministry. We’d spent several months focusing on “positive” topics: joy, love, hope… It went well.
But then we decided to spend a month, as a congregation, focusing on “brokenness.” It was amazing–awesome, deep, vulnerable and a catalyst for so much conversation and later, action.
It made me realize that there is a reason days like Ash Wednesday came into being. Human beings need to acknowledge our shortcomings and limitations. It is a relief to be reminded that we are human and that like everyone else, we make mistakes. Not only that, we have flaws in our character that we can–and should–address. And we’re not alone in that.
These flaws, these limitations and shortcomings–they are a source of suffering. Suffering too, is human. In our culture, where it seems like we are required to constantly hide behind the pretense of perfection, it feels good to let go of that for a moment and accept the smear of ash across our forehead. We too are sinners.
That the ash is made from the Palm Sunday branches is another beautiful reminder. The days of joy and triumph are intimately connected to the days of sorrow and pain. That is the stuff of life.
So, my friends. Welcome to Ash Wednesday.