Remembering from dust we have come and to dust we shall return is a concept we are familiar with, but to my surprise I spent most of the day explaining just what this "Ash thing" meant. The young people I met, especially did not know what it meant. But there was this gleam in their eye and and a look of tell me more. That is what I enjoyed most, when people had no clue what ashes were for. Their lack of knowledge allowed me to delve deeper into who Christ is, then I thought what a great witness tool, something people don't know about to get to a deeper conversation about salvation and the relationship available in Christ. I ran into the cutest couple who briskly and happily circling the park with the mark on their heads, we had a great laugh when I told them they were great for business. Yes, Ashes are good for business and we owe it to the world to talk about this great salvation in the terms of the laity. It can be difficult and let me explain why.
This wonderfully enlightening day was on the heels of listening to a Diane Rhem radio show episode on public radio (NPR) about Why Priests: "A Failed Tradition!" a book by Gary Willis. Her guest was Gary. This show was about a man who said " I have nothing against priests. In fact I tried for a time to be one." His premise was that the church could get along without priests. Ashe Wednesday and the whimsical looks, the looks of great anticipation as I marked the foreheads of some, the smiles when some said no, and the looks some gave me as if I was from outer-space, decked in a stole, a small can of black ashes in my hand and a cardboard handmade sign that read Ashes To Go! made me realize why the tradition lives. When other traditions have come and gone, governments have risen and failed, the church stands firm and ready to proclaim how great God is. This Ash Wednesday, was a moment when I could say this is why I am a Priest. A servant of the Almighty Creator, ordained by the church and loved by its people. This day was inspired by the people and dedicated to the people of St. Richard's Episcopal Church. No regrets.
My handout read
We’re offering ashes on the street corner today because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldn’t be conﬁned to a church building. We probably need it more when we are in the
middle of our daily business! The ashes we receive here are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of God’s call to us. There is much more to the beginning of Lent than ashes alone, and we encourage you to make time for worship with a community of faith, for the support of others and of the great traditions of faith in our work of repentance and renewal. But God meets us not just in worship, but in the midst of life, and we offer the opportunity to remember our faith to those whose schedules make it hard to stop and pray with others today.