February 13, 2018

Ashes on the Streets

A few years ago I wrote about the practice of taking the imposition of ashes out to the streets on Ash Wednesday. I share it again below with a few edits ...

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A while back, Sara Miles wrote this in a Huffington Post article,

"It's rare in our culture to admit, in public, that you're not in control--that you, basically, are not God. And given the din of advertising and political polemic and hype and doublespeak surrounding us, it's rare to escape the fantasy that money or science, fame or violence or shiny objects will somehow save us from death."

It's still a potent statement a few years after she wrote that. Maybe even more so.

Ashes to Go is the term coined to describe the practice of taking the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday out to public places. This practice has its detractors. Some think it to be a religious short cut; that it's simply not enough–as this post points to.

One of the most radical characteristics of Jesus' ministry was that he touched people–normal folks, in normal situations. I can appreciate a holistic ideal for what this important service is to communicate but I think it is important for us to capitalize on opportunities to be outside of our buildings, within our communities and being completely who we are.

We are prone to forget what it is is like to be outside of our church buildings and let all of our senses absorb what is happening around our holy fortifications. This simple of act of taking the imposition of ashes out into our communities reminds of what kind of people Jesus has called us to be.

That is to say, it may be that "ashes to go" does more for the Christian than it does those passing by, receiving ashes and I am okay with that. If this activity doesn't work for you then I have a simple response:

If not now, when?

Find an opportunity to take the gifts of the Church into your community so that you might learn, grow and flex spiritual muscle you may have forgotten you had. You may find a community more ready for you than you realized. You may find a community oblivious or hostile. In any case, you will know something more about your neighbors than you did before. I cannot overstate how important that is. You will also learn what it feels like to be a Christian "out loud," a Christian exposed and that may be the most important aspect of such an effort.

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