Ash Wednesday 2022
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It is a reminder that changing one’s consciousness and altering one’s mindset not only frees one up to see things in a new light, it also provides solutions.
Today Christians all across the world make their way to various denominations of houses of faith to receive, of all things, the mark of a thumb dipped in ashes, a cross smeared on their foreheads. This event known as Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the liturgical season recognized as Lent, a forty day event in which we are encouraged to be more reflective about our spiritual path and more sacrificial in our daily choices. It is a time of preparation for the passion of Jesus and his Resurrection. It is a time meant to draw one closer to God as well as create for the followers of Christ, a new consciousness, a consciousness of denial of self and acceptance of another way to live, a way of love and mercy and kindness. It is likened to a six week journey, a chosen path to move from one place onto somewhere else.
We start this journey with the service of ashes so that we begin with the reminder of our human ways that are often selfish and destructive to ourselves and to others. Usually a dismal service, there are scriptures read and hymns sung acknowledging our sinfulness and our constant attempts to separate ourselves from Divine Love. In truth, I never really liked Ash Wednesday and as a pastor have often been guilty of trying to spin the story or make the worship less gloomy, a little more upbeat.
I don’t like having to sit with my broken nature for an entire church service. I prefer hopeful passages of scripture and songs that celebrate grace and goodness. And yet, the older I get the more I see how easy it is to dismiss mistakes and refuse to acknowledge my ungracious behaviors. It seems that for myself and others there has emerged a preference not to focus on or even accept our brokenness and the patterns that emerge from it; a preference to defend our consciousness and rebuke any call to confess or change. However, if we refuse to see ourselves in all our fullness, including our shadows as well as the light within us, we will never really grow or move along the spiritual path we claim to walk.
I may not like Ash Wednesday but I realize that consciousness cannot change without an acknowledgement of that consciousness. Destructive patterns, bad habits, and sticky problems can never be overcome unless we’re willing to own up to our participation in such. And if it takes an hour with ashes smudged across my forehead followed by forty days of reflection and sacrifice then I suppose it’s worth it. The good news and grace will come, just not right now.
You are the light of the world!