discern this

We are an Easter People, and even at the grave, Alleluia is our song.

As Seen in the March 3, 2013 Bulletin March 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 8:12 pm

Dear St. Sebastian Community,

As we marvel that it has been one month since our ordination, we want to say Thank You to each of you, as it is through your prayers, your encouragement, and your support that we now call ourselves deacons.

This journey that we have begun would have been impossible without you, as it was God working through you to call us to this office. Our lives have been enriched and blessed through you, and we know that they will continue to do so.

We also recognize that an incredible amount of time and energy was put into making our ordination day so amazing, for that we also say thank you. Your efforts allowed us to focus on the amazing event that was happening that day, and we never even had to consider the mechanics or details of making it all come together. Your support and love made our day powerful, prayerful, gratifying, and joyous! We thank you for this, from the bottom of our hearts.

We have all come to St. Sebastian with unique stories, with different challenges, following our own crooked, convoluted paths. And yet we each find ourselves here, at home in our tiny community, worshiping together and reveling in the love of God that unites us under a Spirit of praise, of joy, of support, and of welcoming. We ask for your continued prayers and support as we grow into our new roles.

Blessings and peace to you,
Deacon Janet Price and Deacon Jon Kmetz

 

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A Belated Ash Wednesday Sermon March 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 2:20 pm

I said I would, so my sermon from Ash Wednesday is below.

I have a tattoo (sorry Mom & Dad). It is small: a quarter completely covers it. It’s in a very prominent place, and yet if I haven’t shown it to you, you almost certainly haven’t noticed it. This is very intentional. It’s there for me, a reminder to me of what I’m trying to do, a reminder of who I am, a reminder of where I get my strength, a reminder of my purpose. It’s a Taize cross, simple, subtle. It looks like a dove. People, when they do see it, often ask what it is—is that a cross or a dove? It’s both. That’s why I love it so. The dove, a symbol of peace; the cross, a symbol of our faith. Peace, through that cross. My tattoo isn’t there for others, but I see it, and it makes me pause. When I’m anxious or stressed, I may run my finger over it, carefully slowing my breathing and drawing upon the peace it represents.

My ink is sort of like the ashes we will receive in a few minutes. It is more permanent than the ashes, certainly, but it’s less noticeable.

This is the one day of the year when it’s pretty easy to tell who is Catholic: Non-Catholics will tell you that you have something on your forehead. Catholics will give you a slight smile and move along; they know what it is and probably have a similar smudge.

But what does it mean? There’s a lot of “stuff,” a lot of tradition associated with today, but as often happens, the meaning tends to get lost or distorted over time.

In ancient times, it was a sign of repentance or mourning or sorrow to wear ashes. People tore their clothes or wore sackcloth or dusted themselves with ashes to show sorrow or regret.

Today, the ashes come out once a year. We burn palm branches from last year, and the ashes are smeared on foreheads, with a verbal reminder of our mortality “Remember, you are of the earth, and it is to the earth that you will return” or an admonition to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

It’s a reminder to us that we have work to do, that we are not sin-free, that we are not as close to God as we could be.

This is not a shame tactic. It doesn’t need to make us feel guilty for who we are or what we have done. Instead, it is a sign that we are capable of making changes, of growing, of becoming all that we are called to be.

Maybe you saw David’s post on Facebook today—each day during Lent, one of us will post a short prayer or reflection in the St. Sebastian group—in it, he reminds us that “when we call to mind our sins, we may also call to mind the abundant love and forgiveness that is our Loving Creator”.

Now, historically, ashes were put on the top of the head. Since it became a Thing We Did, we’ve tried to make them an outward sign: visible to all, these ashes say two things: 1) I am Catholic, see my ashes? And 2) I am a sinner. I have much for which to repent, in order to be closer to my God.

But which do we notice? What message do we take away with us when we see ashes? “Oh, s/he’s probably Catholic. It’s a thing people do at the start of Lent. We tend to forget what it really means. It means that there is something (or many somethings) in our lives that keep us from God.

Today, you may notice something different about these ashes. They aren’t going to stick very well. They may be gone by the time you get home tonight. We’re doing this intentionally. The ashes aren’t meant to be a sign to others. They are a sign to us, a reminder to us. in the Gospel, Jesus tells us God doesn’t want fancy signs, the hoopla, the parade. God sees what is hidden, and it is the hidden actions that will reap us our reward. John Wooden said, “Character is what you do when no one else is watching.” That is what God is looking for.

Did you fast today? No one needs know. Did you abstain from meat? No one needs know. Are you giving something up for Lent? Are you taking on something? No one needs know. Did you go to a service today and receive ashes? No one needs know. It’s up to you and to God. A lot of people talk about ‘doing something’ for Lent. A lot of people will try to say that you should do one thing or you shouldn’t do another.

Honestly? I don’t care what things you do or don’t do. But I urge you, as I urge myself, to take advantage of the next forty days (plus Sundays). Take advantage of this season where daylight returns, where warmer days come more often, where plants and trees and animals begin to revive from the winter. Take advantage of this time to create yourself anew. Anoint your head. Wash your face. Let each day be a reminder of the grace we receive through Christ, a grace that fills us and livens our spirits.

And one of my favorite songs:

We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing,
and create the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like himself.
Thanks be to his Son,
who saved us by his death.
Thanks be to the Spirit
who creates the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

If you read this far and you really want to see the tattoo, you can check it out here. I’m making you work for it, because as I said, it’s for me, no one else. But I still like to show it off.