a meditation on 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 for Ash Wednesday
offered on March 5, 2014, at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
There are many joys of my life in ministry—the gift of celebrating together when there is good news in life or in church, the strange pleasure of preparing meaningful worship for each Sunday, the possibility of being a part of God’s new thing that is always emerging in every community of faith and the world.
But all that joy doesn’t mean that there aren’t some challenges, too. Sometimes my humanity is on full and complete display and I’m just empty. Sometimes there are challenges that leave us with no words to say or no action to take. Sometimes there simply isn’t an easy way to keep going forward. Sometimes there is nothing more to do than to turn to God and pray for a new way to open up.
Ultimately, that’s what Ash Wednesday is about: about recognizing our emptiness, about acknowledging our brokenness, about reaching out to God to seek and find a new way. On this holy day, we “remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” We remember that our life is finite, with a beginning and an end. We remember that our capabilities in this life are even more limited. We remember that our brokenness exceeds our wholeness. And we remember that our lives are so often—too often—filled with emptiness.
Even amidst any desolation in our lives, this sacred day reminds us that the story does not end like this. In our reading from Second Corinthians tonight, Paul makes it clear that God fills our emptiness, that God brings us from the place of death into new life. This is an amazing gift, as Paul says:
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet are well known;
as dying, and see—we are alive;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
All that seems to us to be nothingness—all the sin that separates us from God and one another, all the darkness that tears us away from the light, all the brokenness that keeps us from being whole, all the emptiness that longs to be filled—God steps into all our nothingness and makes it something-ness. God fills our emptiness with the abiding presence of God’s love. God takes all our broken pieces and puts them back together more beautifully than they were before. God sends the light of Christ to shine on us and shake the darkness from around us. And God takes our sin in Christ and brings us back together with God and with one another. Paul says it so beautifully and so simply: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Christ we find all that we need to be made whole, and in Christ we are reconciled with one another and with God.
So as we remember that we are dust tonight and go forth into the wilderness of these forty days of Lent, may God’s love fill all our emptiness, may God’s grace enter all our brokenness, and may God’s example in Christ show us the way forward through death and resurrection, this Lent and always. Amen.