Embracing Mortality: a reflection for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wed. 2014 MortalityReadings for Ash Wednesday click here

Bulletin for Ash Wednesday click here

You can listen to the sermon here

On Ash Wednesday we are invited to begin a journey into the mystery of our existence. Since the days long ago when the first of our kind gathered together around under the starlit sky, humans have gazed upon the stars and offered up their questions, longing to know who and what we are, where we come from, why we are here, are we alone in the universe, who made us, why are we here, and perhaps most daunting of all our questions: what will become of us. Tonight, an answer of sorts is offered. Dust.

From dust we came and to dust we shall return. Among all the creatures that inhabit creation, we humans are unique in that we alone are conscious of our own mortality. We know that we are made up of the stuff of the earth; that we sprang forth out of the dirt, the dust of the earth, the same dust that was once the stuff that stars are made of. Out of that dust we are made and when our life on this earth is over, we shall return to that dust. We are after all is said and done, mortal. The life that we know will one day end and the stuff that we are made of will be returned to the earth. We hope that out of our remains new life will spring forth and for some of us this is enough; to be part of the endless cycle of life.

For others of us, the recycling of our remains is not enough. Remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return strikes us as bleak, and we long to be more than just the sum of our parts. We long to be more than just the stuff that is housed in our bodies. We want more than just this present incarnation of dust. We fear the inevitable decomposition of who we know ourselves to be. We can’t help wondering what lies beyond the dust that we are. Most of the time, we can keep our fears under control as the demands of our bodies to be fed, watered, and amused keep us busily scurrying to and fro, this way and that, with precious little time to spare. Day after day we avoid the questions our mortality stirs in us. From time to time, we catch sight of our aging selves in mirrors that reflect the passing of years as we journey closer to our own earthly demise. Sometimes a nagging pain, a frightening diagnosis, a sudden impact, the death of a friend, or a night like tonight reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return and we are forced to deny the reality of our eventual demise because it is just to frightening to contemplate; or to embrace the reality of our dustiness trusting that the Love that lies at the heart of all that is will not abandon us to the abyss of nothingness. Continue reading

Ash Wednesday: Embracing Mortality

Ash Wed. 2014 MortalityView the Ash Wednesday Worship Bulletin here

Ash Wednesday Readings here

Listen to the Ash Wednesday Homily:  



We Are ONE: an Ash Wednesday Homily

To help remind us that we are stardust, begin with this video: The Call of the Pleiades – Gerald Jay Markoe

When I was a Child, I was afraid of the dark.

When I was a child I was afraid to venture forth from the familiar.

When I was a child I was afraid of loosing people I loved.

When I was young I would look into the night sky afraid that I’d never be able to understand it all.

When I was young, I would look up at the stars afraid that God was just a figment of our wishful imaginations.

When I was young, a pastor smeared ashes upon my forehead and I was afraid because I thought I might die in bondage to sin.

When I was young, I heard the words “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” and I was afraid because I knew that I was nothing more than a worthless sinner.

When I was young, I caught sight of my face in the mirror and I was afraid because the ashen cross on my forehead reminded me that soon I would be dead and to dust I would return.

When I first became a pastor, I mixed the ashes and the oil together and I was afraid that the power of the ritual would remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return and I was afraid because I loved you and couldn’t bear to loose you.

When the years passed, and ashen crosses became routine, I began to fear that the power of the ritual would fail to remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

When I first became a theologian, I was afraid because I feared that our confessions convicted us of crimes too horrendous to be our own.

When my questions drove me into the wilderness of doubt, I was afraid that the MYSTERY would overwhelm me and even more afraid that in the wilderness I would find no MYSTERY at all.

When I first opened myself to the wilderness that surrounds us, I began to see my fears and I was afraid that I was not worthy of the MYSTERY for which I longed.

When I awakened from my fears, my eyes were clouded by sleepy dust; that strange dried mucus that forms as our tears harden beneath squinting lids that are determined to hide from us the Light we both long for and fear.

When I began to clear the dust from my eyes, it took time before I found the courage to gaze into the night skies to see the millions of bright lights that beckoned me to open myself to the ONE who is MYSTERY.

When I began to feel the embrace of REALITY, I was afraid because I knew that I too am fearfully and wonderfully made capable of reaching out beyond myself to the MYSTERY we call God.

When I began to trust that I too AM the result of the initial bursts of creative energy that brought the universe to birth, I saw in the night skies the light from the dying stars whose dust contains the stuff of life.

When I see the light shining in the darkness, I am beginning to know that we share the light’s energy. The Being that flowed through our ancestors lives and breathes in us.

When I begin to understand that the elements that make up my being are the elements born of stardust, I know that my own molecules have known unimaginable joy, outrageous pain, indescribable beauty, unspeakable suffering, as we journey from dust to dust.

When I consider that we are all One, you and I and the MYSTERY who creates, nourishes and sustains us, we are ONE.   I hear the words that Jesus spoke over and over again: do not be afraid, have no fear, fear not, for I and ABBA are ONE and where once I saw only wormwood and gall, I am beginning to see life and beauty, and love and eternity as we move from stardust, to dust.

To claim that we are stardust is to trust that we are connected to all that is, all that has ever been, and all that shall ever be.

 We are not small. We are not insignificant. We are not just dust. We are intimately ONE with the Source of Being, ONE with Christ, ONE with the Spirit that breathes in all of us; ONE with another, for we are LOVE, and LIGHT, LIFE and DEATH, I and THOU.

Now when I mix the oil and ashes, I sprinkle a few sparkles to remind us that we are not just dust, but stardust, intimately, intricately, interconnected.

 Now the darkness reveals the MYSTERY, the ULTIMATE REALITY, the ONE we call GOD, the ONE who gently beckons us forth into the light of life and the joy of living, trusting that here and now eternity is ours to embrace.

When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark.

I have lived too long under the condemnation constructed by stories that no longer inspire life.

In the starlight, the darkness gives way to eternity.

New stories are born; stories that share the truth of love and life, here and now.

I AM dust, the stuff that stars are made of.

I AM ONE with the LIGHT of LIGHTS, the Source of All Being.

Dust I AM and to dust I shall return; into the MYSTERY; the MYSTERY Who beckons us forth into life, beyond death, asking only that we have no fear, for we were made to embrace eternity.

Remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

For we are divine, One with GOD, now and always. Amen