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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It’s the Ash

We have an altar at our house.  That’s normal, right?

I was recently at a conference, where I found myself seated at a table filled with people who would all describe themselves as sacramental.  I knew, within seconds, that I was going to be way out of my league when it came to conversation about the sacraments, but let’s be real… that has never stopped me before.  I dove in with a question about how we might encourage our Protestant churches to embrace more than two sacraments.  Asking questions is a risk, especially when you are surrounded by highly educated people who have no idea who you are.  I generally ask questions to gain insight into what other people think, unless it’s a question like, “How do I make this stupid computer do (fill in the blank).”  If I’m asking that, I really need to know…  But if you ask a question, people assume you don’t know.  That’s cool.  I’m a ‘take one for the team’ kind of girl.

At any rate, questions are often answered with questions, and I found myself trying to defend confession as a sacrament.  This was a huge misstep on my part.  If you’re Protestant and you have an opportunity to defend one of the five Catholic sacraments that are not ordinarily recognized as such in Protestant circles; you should always pick anointing!  I know this, and still I was like, “Let’s talk about confession (people I don’t know)!”  Great move, L.

Well, it wasn’t too long until I was shot down and decided to keep my mouth shut for a minute. 

Dominical institution?  Of course.

Means of inward grace?  Yep.

But there is no outward sign for confession.

Fast forward a couple of weeks…

Our altar at home started out as just the wooden bench that we picked up years ago… for pennies… at a Salvation Army sale.  When we added the crucifix (itty bitty as it is), all of our Protestant friends just about died.  The rest began to come together piece by piece, and not long ago our ash pyxis arrived in the mail. 

Around this time, I realized that I actually needed to dust some things, so I sort of took the altar apart and then began to put it back together… The crucifix… the paten and chalice (Eucharist)… the oil (Anointing)… the baptismal font and holy water (Baptism)… The pyxis—the ash…

It was after midnight, when in our little house, I exclaimed, “It’s the Ash!”

Could there be a better outward sign of confession?  Of penance? Of our lives, completely broken and burned away to nothing because of sin?  Of our corporate need for forgiveness?  Of our systemic responsibility to those whom we have come to view as dispensable?

In the time honored words of Charlie Brown, “That’s it!”

Ash Wednesday…  May we stand in solidarity, recognizing that we are all formed from the same dust.  We need grace to rise.


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