A Reminder: You’re Going to Die

February 7, 2024
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Next Wednesday is Valentine’s Day and it’s also the first day of Lent which means it’s Ash Wednesday. I figure we could talk about love or death this week, so….. let’s go with death. 😉

Historically, Ash Wednesday, and Lent in general, is typically observed more intentionally within what are called “high” church contexts (Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and the like). Grassroots, not being a high church of any kind, shape or form, therefore, has meant that we’ve historically not spent much energy recognizing this season (although there have been exceptions, both on a communal and individual levels to be sure). The more I learn about this time of year, and indeed the entire Church calendar, the more I believe ignoring it may be to our detriment. I think it’d be great if our community began moving, ever so slightly, toward an alignment with the Church calendar. What that looks like, exactly, I am not sure, to be honest, but I know Lent is one area we can begin to explore. Oh, and for those who may have hang ups or concerns about the Church calendar – don’t fret. I’m not talking about formally adopting a liturgy or prescribing to the Revised Common Lectionary. I’m more thinking about just recognizing when pivotal moments of the Church calendar occur, what their significance is to us, and how they can be used for shaping us to become a more Christ-like community. 

So on that note, let’s return to death and, specifically, Ash Wednesday: Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. This verse from Genesis is recited while making a cross of ash upon one’s forehead. Such a simple statement and gesture and yet so profound. Here’s a good exercise: stop reading this and go and just quietly read that sentence to yourself 3x out loud. It is grounding. It’s humbling. It forces us to wrestle with our mortality and serves as a reminder of the need to not take our days for granted. 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a season of preparation as we anticipate the pinnacle of, we believe, world history: the death and victorious resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday morning. The 40 days that precede that momentous occasion, however, are to serve as a time of heart inventory, of realignment with the heart and the will of Jesus. It all begins with this posture of acknowledging the impending reality of our own lives’ earthly demise. Psalm 90 instructs us to “Number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Perhaps the wisdom that comes from recognizing our days are numbered is that, simply, it makes us stay keenly aware of the shortness of life which then grants us the key to learn how to live well. Because if you can keep front of mind that death is soon knocking, you won’t squander your days. Acknowledging your pending death is the start of living well. At least, we hope.

Okay, that’s a lot to think about. And maybe heavy to do so too often. That’s okay – you don’t need to stay in that mindset. It can become anxiety-inducing. Which is why following the Church calendar can help here – it allocates seasons for contemplation of such cheery things as our death, reminding us annually of this need.

And that’s what I’d like to do this year with Grassroots. We don’t currently have much of a church building throughout the week so carrying out an Ash Wednesday service could prove tricky but I think we can still do something. So here’s what I propose – next Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, in between sending out love notes to your special someone and eating chocolates, you’re invited to swing by my house any time between 9am and 4pm for a mini-Ash Wednesday service. I’ll have some ash on hand and will cross your forehead and say a blessing over you. And then, maybe, if you have an extra minute we can have a super fun chat about death before you carry on with your day! EXCITING! 😂 So swing by and let’s begin this season of Lent by recognizing death and its looming presence. 


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