February 24, 2017
Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,
Ash Wednesday arrives this coming Wednesday, March 1. Several years ago a group of us from St. Michael’s in Barrington, Illinois were fortunate to be a part of the consecration of the Anglican Cathedral in Renk Diocese of Sudan. The Archbishop of Canterbury was present for this joyous occasion and a worship service lasting over four hours.
The next day was Ash Wednesday. All of us from the Episcopal Church and the Church of England were very concerned that we have a service and our hosts willingly accommodated our request. As the process of planning the service unfolded, three powerful messages arose. First, if you live in a country where you are never sure of where or how much food you will have, there is no need to fast. Second, if you live in a country where death walks with you on a daily basis, there is no need to be reminded of one’s mortality. Third, if what appears to be clouds on the horizon is actually a dust storm forcing one inside and requiring a mask to breathe, one doesn’t need to be reminded that we are all dust. Ash Wednesday, a day to be reminded of our mortality, our sinfulness, that we are but dust simply isn’t needed in Southern Sudan. Every day they shout “Alleluia” because simply being alive is a gift. When they shouted “Alleluia” during the Ash Wednesday service this made sense and I joined in the shouts, and playing the drums, and rejoicing at the gifts of live, love and God…not to mention the faith of the beautiful Sudanese people.
We, however, need Ash Wednesday; we need the firm reminders that God drew us from the dirt and that when our lives come to an end our bodies will return to the dust from which all humanity was originally drawn. We need to be reminded not only of our sinfulness but also of the grace of forgiveness. We need to be reminded of the abundance of our lives and the reality that others aren’t so fortunate and we are compelled to help them. We need to be reminded that we are all created in the image of God; all of us. ‘Dust we are and to dust we shall return.’
See you Sunday, at Mardi Gras on Tuesday, and also on Ash Wednesday.
Love and blessings,