My Ash Wednesday Bonanza

I heard two great Ash Wednesday reflections yesterday, and what’s the point of having a website if I keep these to myself?

In the first one, at noon, the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew was his refreshingly blunt self. He talked about how we don’t really think about needing the help or support of a divine presence when we’re feeling at the top of our game. He ended with what was, for me, a refreshing and surprisingly comforting suggestion: “You know what? You’re a mess! You need a savior. The good news: you already have one!”

Now, it’s a dicey thing to stand in a pulpit and tell people that we’re a mess. Lots of folk, especially queer folk, have abandoned church life because we’ve been told over and over how messed up we are. Certainly my own abandoning of church life in my late teens and 20s was partly because I didn’t think church had anything to offer me except condemnation at worst, and awkward tolerance at best.

Maybe it helps that I know and love Clark, and I know that he knows and loves me. Maybe it helps that I’m secure in my queerness, and I’m no longer looking for external affirmation to tell me I’m all right. Maybe it helps that I’m comfortable disagreeing with, and occasionally raging at, things I hear in church; I no longer feel like I have to figure out how to accept and agree with everything I hear, especially from the pulpit.

At any rate, I walked up to Clark at the end of the service, gave him a huge hug, and said, “Thank you for outing me as the mess that I am. Now I can stop pretending to have it all together! What a relief!!”

I went to the evening service as well, not because I’m koo koo for the Cocoa Puffs of the Episcopal Ash Wednesday liturgy. I went firstly because I was reading the first two lessons and also firstly because PW was preaching. It was a bonanza to get to hear sermons from two of the best preachers I’ve ever heard, as well as to get to hear the beautiful music and sing soprano, alto, and tenor in some of my favorite hymns.


Apparently, there are four disciplines that Lenten observers are encouraged to take on during Lent: study of scripture, fasting, praying, and almsgiving. In the evening meditation, PW advised starting with the Psalms if we don’t know where to begin with the study of scripture.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since I reviewed her Ash Wednesday meditation yesterday morning. My blender brain spent the rest of the day mixing her recommendation to read the Psalms with a comment I recently made to a friend about how much great music has come out so far this year (new releases from Teddy Thompson, The Wailin Jennys, Buddy Miller, Adele, The Low Anthem, Amos Lee, Lucinda Williams, Over the Rhine, Ron Sexsmith, etc.)

Plus, in the past three months I’ve also come across some new artists that I would never have known about were it not for the miracle of the Music Genome Project known as Pandora (Great Lake Swimmers and A.A. Bondy are the first two who come to mind).

So, today I’m adding a new page to the website: Psalms/Psongs for Lent 2011. If you want to engage with me in a daily exploration of old Psalms and new Psongs, head over to the new page and check it out.

One response to “My Ash Wednesday Bonanza

  1. So I’m already leaping ahead to Holy Week and remembering a Maundy Thursday years ago, when an Emmanuelite preached about Good Friday experiences, “the ones that end in Easter, and the ones that don’t.” He concluded:
    “What is God’s response to the bitter cup of the Good Fridays of our lives? God does not offer explanations, rationales, or even apologies. God’s response is the cross. God joins us by sharing and experiencing what we experience. God does not exempt God’s self from such Good Friday experiences. The cross is a towering indication that God is with us in the most unimaginable and intimate way. God participates in all our stories: the ones that end in Easter … and the ones that don’t.”
    There are going to be some Easter stories and some that never get past Lent this year. I’m holding onto the idea that God is in this with us, messes that we are. Thanks for the Psalms and the Psongs.

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