Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday
All those days you felt like dust, like dirt, as if all you had to do was turn your face toward the wind and be scattered to the four corners
or swept away by the smallest breath as insubstantial –
did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?
This is the day we freely say we are scorched.
This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning.
This is the moment we ask for the blessing that lives within the ancient ashes, that makes its home inside the soil of this sacred earth.
So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame. Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are
but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made and the stars that blaze in our bones and the galaxies that spiral inside the smudge we bear.
- Jan Richardson
Welcome to Lent. I loved our quiet morning service, and I'm looking forward to tonight's as well. Ash Wednesday is the anniversary of my son's Type 1 diagnosis years ago, so it holds a special reminder of frailty and mortality for me. I usually cry. I'm sure nobody is surprised.
Last week's letter offered a number of resources around the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I forgot to mention the sacrament of confession, which is appropriate at any time, but can be especially meaningful during Lent.
I meet with a confessor regularly and I find that the liturgy creates a safe and contained space for sharing my vulnerabilities and failures and all the ways I've hurt others intentionally and unintentionally; and then to receive anew the strong assurance of Jesus' forgiveness. I'm always especially moved by the last line, when the priest says: "Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner" — what a beautiful leveling of priest and penitent. We are in this together.
If you're interested in scheduling a time of confession during Lent, please reach out to me or Katie! We will also make drop-in confession available on Good Friday, as we have in the past. You may want to learn more by reading the liturgy or checking out this excellent guide to making your confession that Katie prepared. And if you still have questions, just ask us!
Every year, as part of our Lenten almsgiving, we collect a special offering throughout the season and give 100% of it to an organization working outside our walls. This year's Lenten offering recipient is Little Lights in Washington, DC. Little Lights provides holistic support and services for three public housing communities in the city, and facilitates anti-racism education for the broader community. MANY of our members have attended their Race Literacy 101 class over the years, and have appreciated Little Lights' opportunities to lament violence and injustice in our community. You can give to our Lenten offering for Little Lights here. Or learn more about why we give!
Welcome to Lent. It's a season that gives us permission to be undone and imperfect, weak and limited, to sit still and to listen. I'm praying for each of you in this season, and I'm always here if you'd like to talk or pray.
p.s. For a bit of Lenten beauty, below is a performance Miserere mei, Deus (Latin for "Have mercy on me, O God"), a setting of Psalm 51 composed by Gregorio Allegri around 1630. The composition was originally a secret, only performed in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week, and nobody is quite sure how it became more widely circulated. We recite Psalm 51 every Ash Wednesday, though not *quite* like this. Enjoy!