“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”
Greetings, Fremont Family:
When I was younger, I always thought that Ash Wednesday was a little morbid. It felt like rubbing our faces in death. Now that I am older, I find it comforting. This past year, whether we liked it or not, death was all around us. The global pandemic has taken 2.4 million lives worldwide. Through social distancing and masking, each of us has felt our vulnerability. None of us is immune. We are all fragile, and the beauty of Ash Wednesday is that we don’t have to pretend otherwise. The truth of life is that we are moving toward death, and therefore, life is precious.
Sometimes to know something is to lose it. To appreciate life is to have it disrupted and to have our everyday assumptions and privileges fall away. The season of Lent helps us “remember” our sin and death so that our lives have deeper meaning, forgiveness and joy. This paradox reminds me of a spectacular poem by the Palestinian American poet, Naomi Shihab Nye. In this poem, Naomi speaks of kindness known only after experiencing the presence of sorrow. For us as Christians, we embrace life always within the frame of our mortality. We confess our sins so that mercy can flow, and we believe that Jesus takes up our death so that we might live.
My prayer for us this on this Ash Wednesday is that we sit for just a moment today in the “shadow” of our sin and death so that we might everyday step toward life and God’s grace in all its fullness.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
May it be so, Pastor Erin