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Ash Wednesday

By Mike Mccauley on
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Mar 03 in Musings
Wylie Chapel was full.  Longtime Hollywood Presbyterian members, newcomers, part of the choir, neighborhood people and some of our friends staying at the winter shelter began the Lenten journey in worship. We sang, prayed, sat silently, listened to scripture, reaffirmed our baptism and talked about the sign of ashes placed on our foreheads. The candles placed all around the Chapel brought light into the dark corners.
I’ve been an ordained pastor for 21 years now.  Rather than becoming more and more routine, Ash Wednesday seems to grow in meaning for me each year. It is more than simply starting a season. It is the invitation to reflect on the dark corners inside me and around me, and to be pointed towards Christ. Ash Wednesday is the door to Lent, which gives way to Holy Week, which leads to the terrible goodness of the cross, which deposits us outside of an empty tomb on Easter morning.

Ash Wednesday is remarkably countercultural.  All around us we hear so much about affirmation, positive thinking, building our self-image, choosing our own identity, the relativity of morality and avoiding the negative.  Then along comes Ash Wednesday, and we find ourselves hearing the naked truth: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  The wages of sin is death. Yet we receive it with hope, because the ashes are applied in the shape of a cross. The cross. Jesus’ cross. The answer to the dark corners.

On Wednesday night, I walked out of the chapel with one phrase ringing inside of me: I need God. We need God. It isn’t just a desire or aspiration, it isn’t a mental exercise but a confessional reality- we are people who need God. We have this season to intentionally and deeply reflect on this. Perhaps the Prayer of Relinquishment (Richard Foster, Prayers from the Heart) we used in the service can help us in this work.  Try praying it slowly each morning.
     See you soon,
               Pastor Dan
A Prayer of Relinquishment
Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.
            May your will be my delight today.
            May your way have perfect sway in me.
            May your love be the pattern of my living.
I surrender to you
            my hopes,
                        my dreams,
                                    my ambitions.
Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.
I place into your loving care
            my family,
                        my friends,
                                    my future.
Care for them with a care that I can never give.
I release into your hands
            my need to control,
                        my craving for status,
                                    my fear of obscurity.
Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish your
kingdom on earth.
For Jesus’ sake,
                                                            Richard Foster
                                                                              Prayers From the Heart

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