Ashes to ashes is reality of our common humanity | McKibben
The first time I remember seeing smudged foreheads in the workplace was at Big Bend Hospice some 16 years ago now. Coming from a denomination that does not typically observe Ash Wednesday, and working primarily in institutions associated with Baptists, it is not surprising that I did not encounter it until I was nearly 50.
I am grateful for the broader perspective that Hospice work brings on so many levels, including a broad religious and spiritual perspective. I find that it deepens and widens my own faith to have the opportunity to learn from many faiths and traditions.
For me there is something visceral about seeing someone’s forehead marked with ashes in the sign of the cross. It feels like a statement of humility and faith to receive the ashes. I know that there are those who say what matters is on the inside not the outside, but in ways it feels to me far more interior than exterior.
In this ancient ritual those who receive the ashes hear what we often avoid facing, and that is that we are mortal, that we come from dust, and to dust we shall return.
2020年欧冠赛程表Nadia Bolz-Weber, the radical but deeply sensitive Lutheran Minister, tells a powerful story of an Ash Wednesday years ago. She had the day before conducted the funeral of a gay man she did not know. She was hesitant to do the funeral with so many services at her own church waiting for her attention, but she feared that unkind words might be said over the man’s life and told the mother she would be honored to assist.
She spent time with the mother and learned the beauty of her son’s life. What she did not realize while conducting the funeral was that less than 24 hours later, she would be at the hospital bedside of one of her members who had just given birth to a child. They requested her presence and asked her to bring ashes as it was Ash Wednesday.
She anticipated imposing the ashes on the mother and father and big brother. What she had not considered was placing the sign of the cross on the newborn baby as the parents requested.
Rev. Weber describes the experience, “I pressed ever so gently into her brow, onto this brand-new skin that had only been exposed to air for a few precious hours, and said that even she, full of beauty and hope and just hours from her mother’s womb, even she will return, return to dust and the very heart of God.”
It was a pivotal moment for them all and the pastor says that she realized on that Ash Wednesday, more than any other, that the promises of baptisms and funerals, of births and deaths, are so totally wrapped up together, for we come from God and to God we shall go.
Accepting our mortality is not just something for Christians and not just something for Ash Wednesday. It is a reality of our humanity.
2020年欧冠赛程表While some luminaries of the technological world see mortality and humanity not as realities to accept but as hurdles to overcome, the greater wisdom of the ages is to “Remember, thou are mortal,” as returning victorious Roman generals were purposefully reminded throughout their victory celebrations.
2020年欧冠赛程表I have read that Steve Jobs answered one question at the beginning of each day: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
2020年欧冠赛程表Jobs, who was intentional about living and working purposefully, said, “If the Answer is ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Long before Jobs, the philosopher Spinoza said, “Discussing death is a meditation not on dying but on living life.”
Through the ages our wisest thinkers from diverse perspectives have taught that if we have the courage to talk about death, not morbidly or frequently, but from time to time, it helps us appreciate the beauty and fragility of life.
2020年欧冠赛程表I pray for all of us the wisdom of the ages, the invitation of Ash Wednesday, to remember we are mortal and be more intentional about the precious time we are given.
The Rev. Candace McKibben is an ordained minister who serves as the director of faith outreach at Big Bend Hospice and as pastor of Tallahassee Fellowship.
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