Ash Wednesday: A Grounded Lent
We are all created of soil and spirit
TODAY is ASH WEDNESDAY.
Welcome to a grounded Lent — forty days of reflections as Christians move toward Easter, the spring awakening of the earth (in the northern hemisphere), and the sacred season of renewal and rebirth.
When I originally planned this series, I thought of these weeks as a time of transition with the COVID pandemic shifting to a new stage. I never imagined that Russia would invade Ukraine and threaten nuclear destruction. We’ve no idea what might be ahead. But we do know that this Lent begins with war, and we all pray that the coming days will bring peace.
Whatever happens, it is more important than ever to understand our connection to this beautiful world and our neighbors across the globe. To be grounded in nature and neighbor deepens our vision of God, and empowers us to live with love and justice on this fearsome edge of history. We need to remember these truths.
Let’s walk together. Through these weeks, holding each other in prayer, joined through wise words.
We begin at the beginning — in Genesis — and with gratitude.
We are animated dirt. Soil and life joined. From living ground we were made; to living ground we will return.
— Grounded: Finding God in the World, 42
For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.
— Genesis 3:19
What does it really mean that we are made from dust? I find it shockingly beautiful — the idea that my life is drawn from the earth. Of course, that dust is made from exploding stars and from all the life that ever existed. It carries the memories of billions of years, of immense wisdom, of lives lived long ago. We are connected so deeply with all that has gone before and all that will be. One day, I shall return to that dust — and my being will join with the dust. Once, I considered “to dust you shall return” a sad thought. Now, I am amazed by it. My body is connected to ancient matter, distant stars, to all living things — we all share in the same stuff.
God, with profound gratitude, I remember that you created humankind from dirt, by breathing on the clay and giving it life. We are all made of the earth; we all return to it; we are all created of soil and spirit. May these forty days be marked by thankful remembrance of this connection with the earth and to others, with a renewed passion to care for your creation and to make peace, and a humble awareness of our common destiny. Amen.
If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden’s dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
— Ross Gay, “Thank You”
A WORD ABOUT THIS PROJECT
Today (Ash Wednesday) and tomorrow, these reflections will go to the entire Cottage list — both free and paid.
Beginning on Friday, March 4, A Grounded Lent will be delivered only to the paid community.
I’ll take you through forty days from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday (but no separate reflection on Sundays other than Sunday Musings) based on a devotional I originally wrote for Grounded — with added material and updated for the Cottage.
If you want to get the DAILY Lenten reflections you can sign-up for a monthly paid subscription for March and April, at $5 per month for a total of $10 to receive all of the devotions — and you can cancel at the end of April if you choose (I won’t be offended!).
If you can’t afford this and would like the DAILY reflections, please reply to this email (just hit reply as you would for any email) and let us know something of your situation. We’ll give you a complimentary subscription for two months. It is that easy. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds.
Here’s the audio of my sermon from last Sunday in Tampa, Florida. I was asked to preach on the theme of communal gratitude, and the text was Nehemiah 12:27-30:
Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. The companies of the singers gathered together from the circuit around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.