Lectionary readings for today:
Morning: Ps. 27; 147:12-20
Evening: Ps. 126; 102
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
A week ago Monday, I received a text message from a good friend in Asheville, telling me that our dear friend, Aimee had died. Aimee had gotten the flu, which quickly developed into pneumonia and then a staph infection. We had been reading updates on Facebook from her husband and praying that she would soon be able to be released from the hospital – never imagining how quickly things would turn. Aimee was a vibrant, creative pastor who shared her gifts with the church in great abundance in her short 44 years of life. Joel and I will join countless friends in Montreat on Saturday to celebrate the light and life we knew in Aimee. We will sow many tears. But we will also give thanks. Those of us who had the privilege of having known Aimee are better for it. And the abundance of sadness and tears cannot drown out the joy.
I had Aimee on my mind last night, in our Ash Wednesday service, as we began this Lenten season with a reminder of our mortality. We had a chance to receive and offer ashes on our foreheads with the words, “Remember that you are God’s beloved dust, and to God’s beloved dust you shall return.” Because it is when we remember who are, and whose we are, that we can most fully live, that we can offer our best selves to God and others. From the first breath we take to our last, we are given the gift of time – to dance, to laugh, to cry, to dream, to be vessels of God’s abundant light and love. My friend, Ashley-Anne, lost her mother to cancer a month ago. She wrote a beautiful reflection last night that served as an Ash Wednesday sermon for me. And I want to share her words:
From dust we were all created and to dust we shall all return. And our in-between is full of breaths of new life, sighs too deep for words, and cascades of uncontainable joy. Let’s don the sackcloths in mourning but not linger among the ash heaps. Let’s dance in the graveyards and ICU’s. And let’s continue to make the darkest night jealous of the light of day.*
God who weeps with us, God who dances with us, thank you for the gift of those who bear your light and love to us. Breathe new life into our dusty selves and help us to truly live as your people. Amen.
*See Ashley-Anne’s full post here