Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
2023 Blog #9
February 27, 2023
Reflections on Lent, Ash Wednesday and Worthiness
For several years now, I have begun my Lenten journey by distributing ashes on the outside of our sanctuary building on the morning of Ash Wednesday. I rather enjoy it. In doing so I find myself interacting with people that I would not normally interact with. The bulk of those who accept our invitation to receive ashes are either staff or parents of students at the pre-school that is housed in our building. These are people I see occasionally and know casually but have rarely had any deep conversations with. Ash Wednesday this year was a little different.
One woman in particular stood out for me. She was nervous about accepting Ashes. She asked me a few times if she would be allowed to receive ashes. I assured her that she was. She told me that she had not been to church recently. I assured her that she this was fine. She could still receive ashes. She told me that she had not recently been to confession. Again I told her that she could receive ashes. She told me that she was of Roman Catholic background. Once more I pointed out that this was not an obstacle.
Finally her pre-school daughter walked over to me and asked for ashes. “Of course,” I said and afterward remembered that I should have asked her mother for permission. I looked at her mother who smiled and nodded. Her mother pulled the girls hood back and I gave the little girl a blessing and ashes for her forehead. Of course, her mother followed her and was now willing to receive this blessing. There were tears in the mother’s eyes as she received ashes and my prayer for her.
I can’t imagine how many people are outside of our church walls and, like this mother, believe that they are too badly tainted to receive grace and a blessing. Many, if not most people, don’t know that grace is a gift that is not earned. I for one have never lived a good enough life to be worthy of the grace that I have received. I don’t know why people feel that one must be pure in order to receive God’s grace but that surely is not the message of the church of Jesus Christ. We teach that it is the most tainted that receive the most grace and mercy and they are obligated to live lives of gratitude forever after.
I feel badly that this woman did not learn the lesson of grace. Hearing this woman’s doubts about herself give me a little bit of guilt and shame. How many other people need to hear the teaching of grace but are waiting for us, the faithful, to leave our sanctuary buildings and teach these lessons on the street corners.
Rather than giving up something for Lent this year maybe it is time for us to add something for Lent; regular trips outside our walls to hear these words of doubt and anxiety in the street corners near where we live.
To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/