Greetings, Creator Family!
It has been a joyful last several weeks to gather in-person in our sanctuary. Though we operate under an attendance limit (65 people), have the added step of an online RSVP, and come observing the long-endured PPE requirements, I don’t believe even these necessities can dampen the spirit of love and joy that we feel. Thanks be to God, our merciful and abiding Lord, who will see us through this day. I am so grateful to worship with you in the place that he calls us, be that in our beautifully bright sanctuary or the familiar surroundings of home.
Still, as my Mom used to say, “There is no rest for the weary.” So, as we prepared for our regathering, felt confident in our process and have met with the relief and gladness described above, we have been afflicted with yet another problem—septic system failure. After 50+ years, our septic system has completely failed. We are in communication with Hanover County Public Works and gathering bids to remedy the situation. After thorough research and assessment of the situation, we were hoping to have two options: 1. Replace our current system with a like system, or 2. Hook up to County Sewer. Unfortunately, due to current service regulations, we may have no choice after all and will be required to hook up to the county service. Either way we go, we have received preliminary estimates which put the repair at approximately $35,000.
There are many ways to look at this very large number so as to keep it in perspective. Perhaps the easiest, and the manner in which we should be thankful to God as we undertake this venture, is that our current septic system has lasted years beyond its measure. Everyone I have spoken with in this profession has remarked how amazing it is that our system lasted this long, with a life expectancy of a commercial leech field around 25 years! As I’m sure you’re aware from taking care of property of your own, the repairs never come when we’re ready for them or cost what we wish to pay. I am choosing to thank God for the five decades of fully functioning works!
For the purposes of our gathering this spring, I have undertaken a “Band-aid” approach, as we continue our County and contractor negotiations. As you all know, the Sunday services have been hampered by the bathroom being shut down, but I have made it possible for us to use them again, with care. I won’t bore you with the details here, but you are welcomed and encouraged to ask. The more stewards and those knowledgeable and invested in the care of our property and its upkeep, the further, frankly, will we be able to go. For now, the upstairs and downstairs restrooms are fully functional. In practice, you are encouraged to preserve water where you are able (e.g., shut off the faucet when washing hands and turn it back on to rinse off), but all services are up and running. The issue remains top on our Vestry’s agenda, I assure you. Lee Barron and I are working on this every day and we hope to have a permanent solution and more details soon. In the meantime, please pray for our worship life to grow and flourish like the pollen on all those trees this time of year. See you Sunday!!
Faithfully in Christ,
They slept, who should have guarded,
And watched over his tomb,
But he 'rose up' and none did see
His rebirth from this womb,
His spirit graced the garden,
His final act was done,
He was 'The Resurrection'
His victory had been won.
- By Ernestine Northover
What happened to those Soldiers?!
The Gospel of Matthew tells us in the Resurrection account (27:62-28:15) that they were instructed by Pilate to guard the tomb where Jesus lay, and that they were sort of on loan to the High Priest for this duty. This explains why they would report to the High Priest before going back to Pilate, but what happened to them?
Matthew also tells us that the Soldiers became like “dead men” when the Angel appeared to roll back the stone. The Soldiers told this to the High Priest, who instructed them to lie to Pilate and say they were asleep. It is possible that this was a “sleeping post” (a common designation in the military), and that they were first roused by the Angel and then passed out. This explanation makes sense because if it was not a sleeping post and they reported that they fell asleep, they would be executed for dereliction of duty.
So, why did the Soldiers react to the Angel in this way? To put it simply, they were pagans, they believed in the Roman gods. Their response to an Angel from Heaven was based on an expectation of vengeance or oppression from an unpredictable god. Thus, they were unable to accept God’s emissary and so recoiled in terror for their lives.
Our God is an awesome God! God constantly reaches out to us and calls us each by name, inviting us into God’s-self. The Resurrection is a miraculous witness and invitation to us! In truth, God shows us the WAY every day, in so many ways as to boggle the mind.
The Scripture calls out to you as a living Word, leading you deeper into the heart and mind of God. When we read and study Scripture, we get a better picture of God’s action and presence in our lives and are more able to recognize God—or the emissaries of God. The key to knowing God is knowing, recognizing, and expecting God to be God.
Your Bible is there. God wants to be known!
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator family,
Easter blessings to all!
What a joy to worship with you in our Sanctuary on Sunday, the Resurrection Day. For those joining at home, I am so grateful for our congregation coming together once again to worship our Lord and I look forward to our new ways of worshipping, in person or in your home; wherever you are. We are now very much one in the Spirit.
Please, let me or your Vestry person know how best to make our continuing services accessible and welcoming to you. This is not a time to be without your church.
A blessed and happy Easter to you.
Faithfully in Christ,
Hello, Creator Family!
Our blessings this Easter truly overflow. After a long, long time away--time that none of us could fathom and all of us have lamented, we are returning to worship in our Sanctuary THIS Sunday, Easter Sunday! I can’t help feeling ready to burst into song: O Happy, Happy Day!
The change that led to this happy news came quickly and unexpectedly at the end of last week. I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with the Bishop’s office tracking down the particulars of this news and talking with our Senior Warden, Lee Barron, about our response. Your Vestry is meeting to prepare for Sunday, and we are all excited about re-gathering at Easter.
Our process for re-gathering will look much like our in-person, outside worship. Physical distance is not only a mandate, but a sound and, strangely, most considerate approach to gathering indoors. You will find the Sanctuary as welcoming as ever—and also carefully arranged and marked to honor the current guidelines and help our parishioners feel at home. There will be specific instruction for you when you arrive to include the location of PPE (masks, gloves), sanitation products (wipes, hand sanitizer), along with our plan for the service. As always, please wear your mask for the duration. We will be led by our Music Minister, Martha, playing all the beautiful Easter music she has planned and accompanied by the singing of Don and Elizabeth Lafoon.
Strange and new as it all is, my promise is that this will NOT be an unsettling or strange experience for you. Well, at least not any more unsettling than a God who loves you unconditionally, dying on a cross, and then rising from a grave for YOU. As always, the service will still be broadcast over ZOOM and YouTube for those attending from home, so there’s one more “strange” development we will take in stride. Our new A/V station inside the sanctuary which benefitted you from your sofa will now be a consideration from the pew. This, for me, is what it means to be family: flexible, patient, giving and of good cheer. We have all been through, and still are in, such a long, strange year. We need to be in the Body now more than ever. A lot of prayer, effort and industry go before you into our beloved church. Please consider joining us this Sunday for our Resurrection Day Celebration at 10 am.
It has been so long since we were able to worship together, but our year apart from in-person liturgy has not been a waste or futile. I believe, rather, that God has been growing new gifts, new fruits, in each of us, and now will be the time of sharing them to grow our congregation. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). God speaks to us from so long ago as the voice we hear even today, in times of trial, sorrow, or confusion God faithfully calls to us to wait because God is waiting for us! Isaiah encourages all of us by proclaiming, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (30:18)
God waits to be gracious to us! God lovingly looks for our devotion and commitment and desires to shower upon us the Light of Life, the Morning Star, the Living Water, the Love and Peace and companionship of Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit! Claim God’s love and presence NOW and celebrate with us this Easter Sunday!
“Blessed are they who remain steadfast under trial, for when they have stood the test they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to all those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Friends in Christ,
Our Lenten series, “Finding Joy in Lent,” will end with tomorrow’s evening program. Going forward, we will continue the weekly Wednesday compline (It will resume the week after Easter, April 14th). What follows is a look at Joy through the lens of the Holy Spirit.
In the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul lists the Fruit of the Holy Spirit as "…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (5:22-23). "Fruit" in this instance, as in the case of a fruit-bearing tree, is the result of a “natural or intended action facilitated by labor.” According to Paul, we are “co-laborers” with God, receiving the labor (gift) from God and laboring (using it) according to God’s purpose and will (1 Corinthians 3:9). The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, then, is that which comes into being as we live in communion with and devotion to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God! The Fruit is a product or characteristic of a believer who has yielded to the Holy Spirit's work in his or her life. One of these character traits is joy.
In the New Testament, "joy" is the Greek word chara. Related to both charis ("grace" or "gift") and charos ("rejoice; express joy"), joy is the natural response to a gracious gift. Most often we experience joy through worldly events, a healed illness, a hard-earned accomplishment, the birth of a child, a re-union with an old friend. The elation we feel is wonderful, and the experiences can be memorable. These are genuine moments of happiness that with stay with us as a pleasant and coveted memory. But as great as that moment was, it pales in comparison with the joy God wants us to have—and it is different.
Joy—the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, originates with God, whether it be the arrival of the Messiah (Luke 1:14), the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 28:8), God's power over the sinful world (Luke 10:17), or God's salvation (Acts 13:52). God's grace is so strong that even the promise of His work can elicit joy (Hebrews 10:34; James 1:2-4). And one of the greatest sources of joy is seeing God's redeeming work in others (Acts 13:52; 1 Thessalonians 3:9; Philippians 2:2). True Joy comes from abiding in Christ's love; it flows from believers being united in mind, love, spirit, and purpose in Christ (Philippians 2:2). And that brings us to St. John’s teaching that complete Joy means to be united with the Father, Son, and other believers (1 John 1:1-4).
This is important to remember when circumstances are less than joyful (relate, anyone?) that we must, as St. James tells us, "Count it all as joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2 and also 1 Peter 1:6). In trials, joy is not found in the immediate situation, but in the promise that God's Kingdom will be revealed through the situation. First Peter 1:7-9 emphasizes that current trials bring an assurance of faith, making the future joy even greater when Jesus returns. Similarly, James 1:3-4 says that trials will strengthen our character. We can rejoice knowing that trials point to a future gift.
Jesus tells us, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. What does this mean? The "Kingdom of God" is found in the witness and action of the believer living out the Gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes God displays His glory and power by healing (2 Kings 5:1-14). Sometimes He puts a believer in a position of power (Esther 8:1-2). And sometimes He blesses His children with material possessions (Job 42:10-17). The key is that it is God who blesses, and although we may appreciate the gift, we rejoice that He has chosen to pour out His love, sovereignty, and power on us. We rejoice in the Giver, not just in the gift.
John further tells us that true Joy is found only in Jesus (John 15:11). If we look for God's work and gifts in our lives, we will always have Joy. If we get caught up in temporary hardships and worldly desires, our joy will be fleeting and weak. The Fruit of Joy remains with us even in hardship because it is a labor of God and not a product of an earthly event.
May you be filled with Joy, forever!
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family –
“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
One of my favorite verses in scripture, to be sure—for all seasons, as it calls us away from the worries, distractions, and woes of the day to the provision of our Lord, in whom we can draw comfort and strength to greet the day. Each and every day.
This is our second observance of Lent in a pandemic. Though the spring sunshine, positive news reports and advance of the vaccine into our circles and wider community make a huge difference, we are still struggling with a life deeply changed and not likely to “spring forward” with full abandon any time soon. How long will masks and distancing be with us? How long will our ventures into the world be curtailed, our gatherings controlled and even still cancelled or postponed? Perhaps you have work or living situations permanently altered because of this time. We plead with the Psalmist: “How long, LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (13:1).
They say the only constant is change. Hard truth, that. Christians know that the only constant is God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, whose abiding and steadfast love for us is without change or end. Thus, the theme I chose for our 40 days together is significant. We are studying “Joy” in Lent not just to “cheer up” a dark, dreary time of waiting, but to acknowledge and access that deepest joy of a God who loves with unchecked abandon.
This week, I’m providing some resources for you to deepen and enrich your personal study on the topic of Joy. To start with, the Bible is filled with instances and uses of the short but powerful word. Some of the most loved and familiar scriptures are included here—many from the Psalms (no surprise!). A quick consult says that the word “joy” appears 155 times in the King James Version. Another source reports that the term appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books and 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books. Clearly, there is a lot of joy in the Bible! Like the Eskimo people and their “snow,” the Hebrews had 15 different terms to express joy. So, then, should we. Starting with the word “today.”
Of all bible verses about joy, perhaps no passage speaks to the joy of remembering better than in Hebrews 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3.
You can use the list below however you like. The verses can be read and repeated throughout the day, to keep scripture close to your thoughts and lips. There are books listed on the topic of “joy,” as well. The quotes could inspire you and those you encounter throughout the day. Pass them on – share them – share the joy you know about what is to happen, once again, in our changing, chance-filled lives: the God of all Creation is going to save it out of pure love. Now that is a joyous thing!
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6
“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35:10
“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” John 17:13
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Psalm 32:11
“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Frederick Buechner
“He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sun rise.” William Blake
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” Rumi
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Karl Barth
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindranath Tagore
“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater. But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Mark Twain
My friends in Christ --
It seems strange, after so long, to have daily good news about the pandemic. Along with this sunny spring weather, come signs that the virus is lessening its grip on us and that things are improving. The vaccine roll-out, though rocky at first, has ramped up and the Center for Disease Control has begun relaxing recommendations for gatherings. What do these new guidelines and the Diocesan considerations mean for us?
With regards to worship services, we have been following guidelines stipulated by the Diocese of VA, where in-person worship has been suspended since this time this year. However, in-person outdoor worship is now being permitted “if your locality has 25 or fewer new daily cases per 100,000 (effective 2/21/21).” At present, Hanover County’s seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 is 23. According to Diocesan guidelines and our county’s current health situation, we are now permitted to gather outside. I say that with some hesitation, however, since the Diocesan ruling on the matter was revised several weeks ago by the bishop. Creator’s high hopes and eager planning will need to be reaffirmed by Bishop Goff before we can move forward. I am hoping this will happen soon.
Looking ahead to the time we can gather indoors in our beautifully repainted sanctuary, we have a little time to wait, yet. Diocesan guidelines allow for this, with masks and social distancing maintained, “if your locality has 10 or fewer new daily cases per 100,000 (effective 2/21/21) and your plan for regathering has already been approved.” The ruling continues: “We would recommend that you wait until you've remained at this level or less for three weeks before proceeding, but that's a decision for clergy and vestry to make.” Since our seven-day average of new case per 100,000 is 23, we cannot gather inside for worship. However, these guidelines may be modified in the near future based on the CDC’s new model for gathering after receiving the vaccine.
Just recently the CDC has ruled that persons who have been fully vaccinated (that is, 14 days following the administration of 2nd shot) may gather with others who are fully vaccinated in a more relaxed way. Fully vaccinated people can:
Regarding other personal or social activities outside the home
At present, Hanover County, with a population of 108,000, has dispensed 30,385 doses of the vaccine with 11,770 fully vaccinated. We are moving towards the light as each person receives their shot! While we cannot yet gather, according to these guidelines, we can certainly anticipate that day in the not-to-distant future. I am hopeful that our Pentecost celebration may be a double celebration this year!
I will send out a notification ASAP if there is any change to our status as we prepare to regather for outside worship.
***On a side note:
You are welcome and encouraged, as our weather changes and you feel called to “get out and DO something,” to come to Church! We are in need in all areas of cleaning and straitening, fixing and attending, dreaming and planning!! Call me or just stop by and let me know what you think and where we can work together to get our Parish ready for regathering!
Peace in Christ,
Statistics and references for this post can be found at:
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
Though this passage is one of the most recognizable in which St. Paul describes the “Gifts” of the Holy Spirit, it is not the only one. In Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 4:7-13, and Romans 12:3-8 the gifts are also described and, interestingly, the lists differ. In some areas of scriptural review this might cause controversy, but in this case the lists compliment each other and suggest even more!
In reality, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are endless, and Paul’s attempts to enumerate them simply exemplify those gifts that can easily be identified in the believer. St. Paul, rather than affirming a stagnant itemization of gifts, teaches that the point of the list is to encourage the believer in their devotion to God.
Over the years, the church has affirmed a list of gifts common to all four passages from scripture in order to give us a reference point from which to start our discernment process. This starting point is actually the point - we need to start somewhere!
Once we begin our spiritual discernment and grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, the Gifts of the Spirit will be made known to us and we will begin to manifest the fruit of those gifts. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are completely otherly from us—they are actual gifts, while the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is the product of a changed and changing disposition and inner life based on the reception of those gifts. The fruit is the change in the inner self and thereby the witness of life lived in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
So, recognizing a Gift of the Holy Spirit in me, I live into that Gift by exercising it for the Glory of God thereby deepening my relationship with Christ. In this deepening relationship I find, well, a deeper understanding of all things (in Christ) and manifest (say JOY) as the Fruit of the Spirit.
Hmmm, finding Joy in Lent? Not so much out there as in here. More to come on our shared journey Wednesday night!
I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:11
Holy Lord God, help us to begin our Lenten Journey with open hearts, filled with your Joy. Help us to give ourselves up to spiritual efforts, to cleanse our minds, our souls, and our flesh. Help us to take pleasure in the good works of the Holy Spirit and to accomplish works of love that will witness to the love given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It may sound strange to suggest that we can anticipate joy while we are heavy laden in Lent. We anticipate Easter with every step of our journey through Lent, but why stop there? No, I do not mean to suggest that we do not experience the joy of Easter after Easter. I mean why stop with anticipation? Why not experience joy now?
As Norman Wirzba, Professor of Theology at Duke University, notes:
“Let’s get clear about our most basic commitments and attachments and then determine if they have their impulse in a clean heart. The time of Lent is not about saying ‘No’ to anything made or provided by God. It cannot be, because everything God has made is good and beautiful, a gift and blessing that God has provided as the expression of his love. If there is a ‘No’ that has to be said, it will be a ‘No’ directed to the distorting and degrading ways we have developed in appropriating these gifts. We do not appreciate how in mishandling the gifts of God we bring ruin to ourselves and to the world while we are in the midst of having a good time.”
We have so many Lenten traditions and practices: giving up, denying, abstaining, or taking on labors which curtail other areas of our lives even as gazing north denies us the vistas of the south. We are, after all, creatures and seemingly incapable of multidimensional action, but we are also Christians and blessed by the indwelling power of God.
If you have already begun your Lenten practice of denial and fasting, that is perfectly fine, but add one more component—God. Lent is really focused on us—maybe too much. Instead of dwelling on the crack in your armor, look to the armorer for help. Instead of lamenting the circumstances that brought you to this point, celebrate the potential and possible wonders ahead! Instead of seeing failure and weakness in the mirror, witness the miracle and wonder of a child of God!
There is a story of a woman in Lent…
“I thought that serving in a shelter would distract me from my cravings, and I specifically stayed out of the kitchen, but now I stood before the table anxious and angry. Angry that I wanted to eat so badly, not because I was hungry--but because I was addicted, and anxious that I would not be able to fight off the urge and I would fail again. By the third week of Lent I hated food, because I hated myself for wanting it, and I hated God for making it so good. When the people came in, my anxiety grew unbearable, as they took the food all I could think about was, “There won’t be enough for me!”
I heard her crying before I saw her. She had already received a plateful and one for her daughter, but I had not noticed her, I was focused on the food. Now I saw her, crying as she fed her daughter, and I heard a co-worker say that they hadn’t eaten in two days. Now I saw her, I saw her, not the food—now, I saw her.
I have served at the shelter every week since that day. I am filled with joy that I am so loved by a God who makes such wonderful things for us. Where once I craved food to fill me up, now I am filled to overflowing with God’s love as others are fed. Sometimes I sit with them and talk about the abundance of God and the joy God has for us all. I always ask them about their life, and they always ask me what it’s like to be the cook.
Peace in Christ,
“Remember you are dust…”
Preparing for our Online service and Observance of Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021 7:00 p.m.
This year, our Ash Wednesday service will be a bit more intimate than in the past. Strange to use that word in the context of our current “Zoom” worship services, isn’t it?! Intimate: something that is “innermost and cherished.” Perhaps a better word is “familial.” Ash Wednesday is always an intimate time and our worship together is always an intimate experience. But this year we will gather in our homes, inviting God into that time and space as we gather in couples, singles, families, and all of us one—a familial embrace. As odd as this may seem at first, there is nothing “virtual” about it–I believe our prayers will enfold us into a spiritual comfort in which we will truly encounter the holiness of God.
As we ready ourselves for Lent and how to observe it under changed circumstances, I want to remind you that the Spiritual truths are unchanged: As always, the two key components of Ash Wednesday are prayer and meditation. It takes time and spiritual effort to allow God in, to share the innermost parts of you and cherish God above all other things, people and concepts (safety, health, etc.) in your life. Embrace that time with this earnest beginning.
Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. Ash Wednesday service, BCP page 264
The Ash Wednesday service is the very first service listed in the BCP section of “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” (See page 264). Think of it a little like a spiritual new year, then. Like all liturgical services, it is both a lens and focal point. As a lens, the service focuses our attention on the theological and spiritual reality of our state and condition as creatures. As creatures go, we are foremost and precious in the mind and heart of God, but we are also simply created beings: broken and in need or redemption. So, we look with new eyes on ourselves and our lives as they truly are.
Ash Wednesday is itself, also a focal point, a moment in time that draws us away from everything else. The service demands our attention, as all services do, if we are going to focus that lens in a manner through which we can truly see the face of God.
This year we must take extra care as in all our services, to tend the “focal point.” As we gather by ZOOM or YouTube, the mechanics of how we are gathering will attempt to trivialize and distract us; in effect the mechanics can quickly become the focal point. We must resist this distraction in the same manner that we would resist focusing on a fly or particle of dust or other superficial distraction. Yet another opportunity for self-discipline God will help with if you ask.
I encourage you to prepare for our service beforehand by changing your gathering space to reflect our time together. A simple way to do this is to light a candle and place it where you can see it. Perhaps add a glass of water as well, a reminder that Jesus is the Water of Life and without this water we cannot live. You may choose to do more to your worship space, let the Spirit lead. In short, make the space different, dedicated and focused at this moment for this time together. Now that you are put in mind--embraced by the Focal Point, now you can focus that lens on the deeper message of the Gospel.
Like so many services, this service invites you to partake of a radical and profound action, an act of acknowledgement and reception which carries the power to alter your life. If we were gathered at church, you would walk to the altar rail and receive the Imposition of Ashes, but not this year. Far from being a “lesser sacrament,” this year’s “self-imposition”, or home-imposition, of ashes has the potential of power and revelation as yet unknown. You will take the ash, You say the words, You will hold symbol of life and death in your hand and choose. It’s a sacramental act with or without your faith and attention, for God’s work is immutable, but how much more meaningful and life-changing it can be with your spiritual investment.
The choice for Life come from the reality of death. It may seem strange to look or contemplate ash—the reduction of a thing to its absolute inert state, and see life, but that is what we do. Symbolically, the ash signifies the end of all things we want and desire that are not of God. The ash represents even hope and perspective, the love we feel and the pain we experience based on our desires in an earthly system that is falling away, though we try to hang on to it. Misguided focus and misappropriated effort are reduced to ash, and at last, our line of sight is broken and we see True Life—behind the Cross on our forehead.
So, how do I get ashes?
You will need a small bowl, a spoon, matches, and patience.
Here are several methods to consider (don’t miss #4):
Our Ash Wednesday Service will be the same and yet different. A wonderful, miraculous time of anticipation, manifestation, and revelation, through which God is present and you are blessed. Please call me with any questions on how I can assist you to be part of the Body on Ash Wednesday.
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.