Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday Ashes

After our noon service today, we got a phone call from a woman who had missed the service, and would not be able to attend in the evening because she had to work.

She told us her name, and wondered if she could stop by in a little while for prayer and to receive the ashes.  I said that I planned to be around and would wait for her.

At the appropriate time she came by the church.  We went into our small chapel, sitting in the narrow pew nearest the chancel.  A small shiny black teacup with ashes sat between us.

I had brought one of our bulletins and decided to read the poem that opened the service.  It was so beautiful, evoking the frailty of our mortality and the ashes of our lives with the fire of God's love and promise for us.  Afterwards, she opened up and her life poured out:  her desire for a clear purpose and work that mattered, her care for a troubled child and grandchild, other grandchildren that she never knew.  As she shared from the depths of her heart,  I looked down at the cup of ashes, and I thought, What good are these ashes?  Does she really need today to hear that she is dust, and to dust she will return? 

Then, it was time to pray, and just as I opened my mouth to begin praying for her, as I thought she wanted me to do, she broke out in prayer herself. Seeing my surprise, she stopped momentarily, and said, "is it all right?" When I nodded, she continued.

And oh my word, this woman could pray.  She prayed for a friend who had experienced loss.  She prayed for her family, and she prayed for her work.  She prayed for purpose and she prayed for strength.  She prayed citing scripture with ease, words she knew by heart.  She prayed until I wondered if there was anything left to pray for.  She prayed for me, and that God would bless me, and my work.

Later, I prayed too.  I prayed for her, especially, although she interrupted to make sure I included someone else she prayed for.

Then I made the sign of the cross on her forehead, saying "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

"Amen", she said, as if it was the best piece of news she ever heard.

"Wait," I said.  I wanted to read one more thing for her, something from our bulletin.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of your resurrection.

"That's beautiful," she said.  Then, "Tell me, when you came to faith, did you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior?"

"Every day," I said.  "In my tradition, it's not a one-time-only thing."

We walked together back down the hallway from the chapel.  "Where do you go to church?" I asked.  I couldn't imagine someone who knew scripture by heart like she did was not going to worship somewhere.

"I haven't been to church for a long time," she told me.  "I always have to work on Sunday.  I usually work Saturday night, too.  I haven't been to church for a long time.  But they told me that I might be able to start getting Sundays off now."

"Thank you for praying with me," she said.  "Bless your ministry.  You are a blessing."

O my heart.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

1 comment:

LoieJ said...

Lovely reflection. Thanks