"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Ash Wednesday Reflection

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Why are you here?  In a world full of distraction and all sorts of succor for whatever ails you mentally, spiritually or physically, why are you here?  I cannot offer you the machinery and pharmaceuticals of health care, or the bright lights and sound of a theatre production, movie or rock concert.  I can’t offer you a self-help prescription that will take you to happiness and success in 31 days!  Lord knows, I can’t even really offer you myself as a good example.  All I’ve got for you this day is ashes and oil and a few words.  So why are you here?

Job was going about his business like any other normal person on a normal day, not realizing that in a few short moments the layers of the onion that was Job’s success and blessed assurance would be stripped away one by one: first health, next family, finally wealth.  Job was a lot like you and I, gleefully living out our four score years enjoying all the marrow of life that we could get.  And then, when he was most certain that he was righteous and blessed, it all was stripped clean and he was left, at his best, sitting on an ash pile scrapping his skin with a pot shard.

Job was hurting, and I suspect the reason you have come tonite is you know that place, or if you don’t know it first hand at least know enough to expect that you will be in that place at some point.  That place where you stand in the midst of the ashes of a life’s aspiration or next to the literal ashes of a loved one where you can no longer avoid the reality that this is an ending, a finality, a loss that no noise of this world will resolve.  This leaves you in the midst of hurt, or as we used to say, in the hurt locker.  When this is truly severe and all-encompassing you are left literally sitting in the midst of that pile of ashes wishing for the end.  Have you been there?  That place at the edge of the world where colour departs, the landscape flattens and grey clouds stretch out to a grey horizon, a rainy-east side tenement of grey stone buildings stained with the markings of generations of Jobs who have traveled this way, full of grey-clad people who walk past you with head bowed encompassed about fully with their grief.

Job is sitting on that ash pile with us, totally alone and feeling isolated from everyone and most certainly isolated from God.  Up to that point Job’s comfortable dispensations told him with certainty that he was living the golden life…mightily blessed, surrounded by family and wealth and abundance…to the point that he perhaps even became convinced that this was his right as the righteous one.  Then, on a whim, it is all stripped bare and he is left bereft, and the worst…well, the worst is still to come.  These three friends come to sit silently to share in the misery, well, their true stripes will soon be shown as they turn to witnesses for the prosecution to explain why it is that Job is really in this pickle…he is not nearly as righteous as he thinks.

So what does this bring us, as sufferers along with Job?  We can learn from the first example of the three friends of Job, who come and sit and dwell with him, torn robe in front, and ash and dust in the hair.  That question we all fear – what do you say to someone in that place, when all you want to do is flee to protect your own life, as if you could somehow avoid that ash heap through speed or ignorance.  What do you say?  Job’s friends give us that answer…in the truly trying times the best gift is not to say anything, but to sit in the midst of the horror to remind Job that there is still a community surrounding him, even when he feels most alone.  And the people there are a reminder that God sees Job, even in his torment (I’m coming to your town, St Benedict’s table music).  So our gift to those who suffer is that silent witness when we sit and rest in the Lord with them, keeping vigil, standing with a friend in their own garden of despair as they wait for the uncertain dawn.

For those who sit in the dark of night, alone and suffering, it is some help to know that Jesus has been there too. What comes with the dawn may not be healing but the strength to see the journey through another day or another hour.

Our hope is in the gospel account of another chronic sufferer, Jesus. He left the garden with friends but was still very alone for His last hours on earth. Jesus rose into the glorious tomorrow through the crucifixion but still bore the marks of that torture on his body (John 20:27). The gospel shows us that great grace exists through just continuing the journey. For those who sit as Job, sometimes the only thing we can do is place one foot in front of the other to struggle until the finish line of this race comes into sight.  And tonight, we gather as a community of sufferers to receive the sure reminder of God’s presence even in the midst of our loss, the cross of ashes that marks us as his own.

 

 

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Written by sameo416

February 17, 2016 at 9:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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