I’m always amazed, as I listen to our lay readers read scripture, at how I hear it. Things seem to jump out at me. I’m not concentrating on getting the words right, as when I’m the one doing the reading. Last evening, as we gathered on Zoom for Ash Wednesday I was struck by these words from 2 Corinthians:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.2 Corinthians 6:4-10
Do you see how, when we follow Jesus, things get turned upside down – sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; having nothing, yet possessing everything. So it is with Ash Wednesday – we come, penitent (that is, remorseful, repentant, aware of and regretful for our sin). And yet, we find ourselves accepted, forgiven, loved. It is a dark day, a day in which we recognize our own mortality – you are dust and to dust you shall return – and yet it is also a day in which we are aware of the new, and eternal, life Jesus offers us.
I’ve only had a practice of observing Ash Wednesday for a few years, but I’m grateful for the deep truth and important perspective of this observance. This year, of course, we had to observe the day on Zoom. But we were blessed to do this with the Rev. Janet Ryu-Chan and to have some vocal recordings from Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church’s Music Director, Marylou Malicdem. May the service be a blessing to you!
Until tomorrow, dear friends, remember your humanity and trust in Christ’s divinity.