Progressive Christian Reflections by Chris Glaser: Ash Wednesday

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Progressive Christian Reflections by Chris Glaser: Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday

“Rend your hearts and not
your garments.”

Joel 2:13
“We
are so damn proud of our humility!” The mother of my childhood best friend said
this, though not to me. She had muttered it under her breath at church one
Sunday in my mother’s presence, and my mother mentioned it approvingly in a
family conversation. I’ve forgotten the context, but there are so many churchly
occasions for which it would be appropriate that it doesn’t really matter.
Today
many of us will attend, even lead, Ash Wednesday services. Pious sentiment will
be running high, a flash flood in the spiritual desert. It will make us feel
good to feel so humble. Some of us will have the opportunity to proudly display
ashes on our foreheads. People will speak in hushed, gloomy, somber tones as
clear evidence of their reverence. Oh, how godly we will be!
I
wonder if a more godly sign of penitence for Christians might be to rip up and
burn our books of church polity. It could be a way of saying that, as useful an
instrument as each may be, they are merely a human attempt to order God’s
grace, which spills all over the place like rain and sunlight on the just and
the unjust.
Some
of us will respond that church rules and laws are good things, they just need
reforming. I would think the prophet Joel considered the heart a good thing,
too, but he heard God calling us to rend it, to tear it asunder, to demonstrate
our repentance. Rending church polities might remind us that we need to repent
of our order that has denied the supposed
disorderly access to Jesus. Jesus
didn’t get along too well with the religious lawyers of his day, who brokered
the grace of God according to their own polity, the Law of Moses.
May your grace surprise us
with its resistance to pride and prejudice.
I had planned to offer
this today long before last week’s debacle of the United Methodist Church
continuing its anti-gay policies in its own church polity. I have been grateful
to work alongside so many United Methodists on progressive issues, from demonstrating
at the Nevada nuclear test site and travelling to Central America in witness of
justice and peace to editing
Open Hands, a
magazine for congregations welcoming of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
people, founded by the Methodist Reconciling Congregation program. I grieve
with them today and all LGBT-positive people in every religious tradition and
denomination whose polities attempt to refuse the grace of God to LGBT people.
This meditation is found
on pages 222-223 of my 2001 book,
Reformation of the Heart, daily meditations for Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Holy Week. Please
use today’s post as you wish, as is advised of every post on this blog. Ash Wednesday
begins the season of Lent, which 
remembers Jesus’
forty days in the wilderness after his baptism, undergoing temptations. For a creative
variation of this biblical story, see last week’s post.


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Copyright © 2001 and 2019 by
Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of
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