I think I'll post three reflections today.
This year's perspective.
One from four years ago.
Ash Wednesday presents a particular dilemma of dissociation for me.
There is the public me, who will preside over an Ash Wednesday service tonight. I have burned last year's palm branches in my fireplace and crushed what was left into fine ash, which now sits in a plastic bag on a kitchen shelf. This doesn't sound very holy, does it? But the ordinary and the sacred always blend in a life of faith.
I think of Forrest Church, preaching at Chautauqua many, many years ago, and proclaiming that "We have religion because we live, and then we die, and we need to make sense of that." I didn't ponder that while I was burning the ashes last week, but today I do.
There is the pubic/private me, who will preach a short sermon tonight, a sermon which emerged from searing experience. As time passes, you are indeed able to take that experience and give words to it that are more universal in scope.
I don't consider that to be a particularly good thing. I would prefer to have foregone the experience.
There's the private me. The one who has an urn half-filled with ashes in her bedroom closet. Jan Edmiston says today that most of us hide our ashes in the closet. She is speaking metaphorically. Those of us with tangible ones keep them in all sorts of places. I keep some in the Pacific Ocean, some in the Atlantic, some in Lake Chautauqua, and some in the mountains of North Carolina. Some in a locket. And some in the closet, because it takes a long time to scatter ashes across the globe. Or at least across our small parts of it.
I don't much care for Ash Wednesday. I used to love it, but now it's not exactly as if I need a reminder.