An Ash Wednesday Homily

Original at Concord Pastor, here.

Just in case anyone’s laboring under a false assumption,
getting ashes doesn’t mean you’re holy.
As a matter of fact – getting ashes means you’re not holy…

Ashes are for sinners, for people like me who do the wrong thing:
sometimes in small ways – and sometimes in big ways…

Ashes are for people like me who screw up,
who forget what’s really important, who let things slide
– even a lot…

Ashes are for folks like me who sometimes hurt other people,
who sometimes hurt even the people they love…

Ashes are for imperfect, broken people,
for people like me who let things get out of control,
who sometimes do the wrong thing
even when they know what the right thing is…

Ashes are for people like me who take too many short cuts,
who don’t always tell the truth, who aren’t always fair,
who sometimes cheat…

Ashes are for people like me who don’t pray
as often as they should…

Ashes are for people like me who sometimes speak
when they should keep quiet
and sometimes are silent when they ought to speak up…

Ashes are for people like me
who sometimes prefer the fake and the cheap imitation the
to what’s genuine, real and true…

Ashes are for people like me who try to love some people too much
and who fail to love some people at all…

Ashes are for people like me who too often and too easily
let things get the best of them,
things like bias, prejudice, envy and pride,
my anger, fear, selfishness and jealousy…

Ashes are for people like me:
are they for someone like you, too?

Going to church and getting ashes
probably won’t turn our lives around overnight
but being here and getting ashes could be a step,
even just one step, a small step, in a new direction,
in the right direction,
in a direction better than the one we’ve been walking…
Getting ashes today might put me on the path
I know I want to follow
but sometimes have a hard time finding,
and often stray from once I find it…

Getting ashes today just might be the beginning
of mending my relationship with God,
my relationships with some people in my life,
or my relationship with myself…

Getting ashes this Wednesday might help me
take an honest look at things in my life:
things that need attention,
things that need letting go,
things that need changing,
things that need healing, mending and reconciling…

Ashes are for people who want to do the right thing
and walk the right path
but who just can’t seem to do that on their own:
ashes are for people like me – and you –
who need God’s help and grace…

Ashes are for people
who want to give God and themselves
another chance at a new beginning…

So even if it’s been a long time
since the last time you got ashes
or if you come every year,
we’re here today to pray,
to get our foreheads smudged,
and to take a first step on a path
we’ve been wanting to walk and walk more faithfully…

And since I know that come tomorrow
there’ll be a dozen reasons to forget
what we did today,
let’s pray that the Lord will give us a nudge, a shove,
a kick in the butt or whatever it takes
for us to take yet another step tomorrow
and another and another, every day, all through Lent…

Ashes are for people like us,
who want to walk through Lent to the joy of Easter
with minds and hearts renewed
in the love and grace that come only from God.

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