Ash Wednesday came early for me this week in the form of everyone’s favorite midwinter reminder of our mortality: the common cold. I could barely get off the couch, and laid there all the while aware of each labored breath, of every constrained blood vessel in my brain, and of all the achy joints that normally allow for locomotion. When you feel like dirt, the words of imposition ring even more true:
“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return”
I’ve had a tenuous relationship with liturgical celebrations like Ash Wednesday, but over time I’ve come to appreciate them tremendously. Being smeared with ashes can seem morbid– and it can actually be morbid!– but it’s also a way to embrace our mortality, to remember our frailty, and to give thanks for the life that we have been given. Too, this practice grounds us in aspects of our weakness, which in a very Gospel way can then become strengths.
It is from here that we begin our Lenten journey this Sunday at Common Table. We’re starting a series looking at the Passion Week emphases of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, beginning with Mark. The proper (shorter) ending to Mark is a stroke of great writing– a truncated, enigmatic conclusion to an epic story that creates all kinds of interest, and which ultimately leaves the outcome to the actions of the reader. It’s also a way to welcome in the daunting specter of Doubt, which when embraced becomes both an asset and a strengthening force.
We will explore this mystery at Jammin’ Java this Sunday, starting at 10:15. Please come to participate and add your voice to the conversation.