Yeah… so… Ash Wednesday. So what’s THAT all about? The short answer is that it’s the first day of Lent. Right…who cares? I get that. The slightly longer and possibly more unpleasant, and probably scarier, and CERTAINLY more profound answer is that Ash Wednesday is a “holiday” when we “celebrate” the fact that we’re all gonna die! Wow! What a concept! Break out the party hats! Great idea huh?
Actually… Yes. It is. It’s an absolutely necessary idea.
Death – our own death – and the eventual death of everyone and everything that we love is a central reality of being a human being. Its an unhappy idea. It is an unpleasantly scary idea. It’s a depressing idea. But its true. And if we are going to live well and happily and productively and effectively and honestly, we CAN’T look away and pretend it isn’t real.
Think of all the ways that we have of pretending that it isn’t true. I remember when I first realized (at my mother’s visitation) that funeral homes put pink tinted lights above the caskets to make the bodies look more “alive” and less dead. Seriously…how lame is that? We almost never say “so and so died”. We say “passed away” or “went home”. We never talk about “the body”. We talk, instead, about “the deceased. Then there is health food, good exercise, jogging, seat belts, bike helmets, and health insurance. All good things, surely, but also good ways to convince ourselves that, ultimately, we can cheat death.
Ash Wednesday is devoted to the idea that you and I and everyone we love and everything we’ve built, is going to be gone before very long. Knowing that in our gut and acknowledging it with our brains and lips is important if we are going to make wise decisions about what we are going to do with the time we have left. Its crucial if we are going to know what, in fact, is really important and what values we are going to embrace in life. Critical if we are going to decide who we are going to serve and who we are going to trust to make our lives meaningful and lasting.
We start Lent by acknowledging that death is real and can’t be denied. We END Lent by celebrating that while death may be real …it doesn’t get the last word. Join us on February 14 at 7pm