"Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows the journey's end. But we know that it will be a road of boundless mercy." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Just 2 weeks ago on Ash Wednesday, we were marked with a cross from ash, we heard the words, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." We are reminded that sitting in ashes was a sign of both mourning and repentance in biblical times. So then, Lent is a time of recognizing our mortality and of cultivating a penitent heart. These are somber tasks.
One of my New Year resolutions was to re-read some of the books that I read during seminary (in particular the books that had particular impact for me). I came across a highlighted quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship, "Discipleship means joy." Joy in the midst of our sorrowful penitence? How can Living into Lent be joyful?
As we continue on this Lenten journey, it is this juxtaposition of joy and sorrow that catches my attention. This time in Lent is an in between place. We are betwixt and between. Neither here nor there. We have left behind what was - and what will be is not yet clear. We come face to face with the reality of our lives; things done and left undone, our fears, our hopes and dreams, our sorrows and losses, as well as the unknown.
While Jesus is being baptized, we heard God declare, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In our baptism, we hear God claiming us also. Then we read about Jesus calling his disciples friends. I can’t help but think that there is that same declaration, that same closeness to which we are called in following Jesus - a companionship with Immanuel, God with us, that is so very humbling and appealing, to which our hearts say, "YES! I will follow." As easily as it is to say “yes”; do I really understand the cost of following Jesus?
In his book, Bonhoeffer lays out what he understands the cost of discipleship to be. In his life, it meant returning to Germany during WWII to work with the resistance to the Third Reich. Ultimately, it cost him his life.
Still, there is evidence of joy in Bonhoeffer's life right up to his last day in a concentration camp. In this Lenten journey, we enter reminded that we are ashes and dust. We enter a place where we are called both to remember our sin and mortality, and at the same time to hear Jesus, God with us, saying follow me, my friend. We embody Living Ash, as we are reminded that following Jesus leads us to the cross and yet we are told to expect joy in this journey.
Remember that you are dust and may you have joy in the journey!
Pr. Paul <><
p.s. – Did you know?? We will have many ways to enter into ecumenical worship with our sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the community. Wednesday night Soup Suppers, Good Friday and the Saturday Easter Vigil. Please check the calendar and make plans to join us. What a wonderful time it is to be Living Ash.