I’m sure most of you have figured out that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. It’s not really a secret. Especially in a seminary.
So here at McCormick we had our usual community worship which included the imposition of ashes. Now this isn’t my first time dealing with ashes, but nevertheless, this time was different. It’s always different. That’s one of the funny and amazing and mysterious things about the liturgical year — it repeats itself on end, and yet each season seems profoundly different from the last time around.
Our worship space at McCormick is really a classroom/conference room that is transformed for an hour each week to become a space for our community to gather together in prayer, confession, and the word. This also means that our space does not have traditional pews, or even chairs that are placed in boxy rows. Usually, like yesterday, there were 4 sections of chairs all facing towards the middle of the room. In this configuration, it is impossible to not see the faces of most of the fellow worshippers.
This is where it becomes important for my story.
See, usually when I receive ashes … I walk up to the front of the sanctuary, receive the ashes, and then go sit in my pew watching everyone else receive ashes as well. The configuration of this new space, however, didn’t allow me to see everyone receive the ashes, but rather allowed me a panoramic view of ashed people at every angle.
It caught me off guard. Like a revelation of sorts.
It was scary.
and I’m still not sure what to do with it…
The question that leapt into my mind at that moment is haunting me still. See I saw all those people with ashes on their foreheads — and it symbolized many things, but to see people all together like that symbolized a group. A group of people set apart for great things. A group of people called to ministry. A group of people reconnected with both the earth and God. A group of people who are wise, caring, and full of grace.
Who am I to be a part of this group?
Who am I to call myself one of them?
See, naming and claiming myself to be a part of this particular group is more than finding a place where I fit and belong. Oh no — it’s much bigger than that. Claiming a space in this group means I am called to something higher than myself, something higher than the group — something that I can’t quite grasp and yet am overwhelmed with understanding.
So this Lenten season — these are my questions, my contemplations, and my prayers. Discerning what it might be mean to claim a space in this group — a space that I ultimately believe has been already claimed for me by God, but a space that I have only just realized the beginning of the implications….
Here we go, Lent. Let’s find our common place.