The What and Who of Meandering About

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Need These Ashes

Spoken word poem on Ash Wednesday 2017.

I Need These Ashes

Stanza 1: Humanity

Tonight,
I need these ashes…
I need them
in a way
I have never needed them
before.
Sure,
I wish I could
move directly
quickly
to celebration,
to resurrection
without these forty days;
these heavy forty days.
But tonight,
I need these ashes
for desiring anything else
would deny
the essence
of my humanity.
My humanity
that gritty existence
formed from clay
filled
with the breath
of the divine.
Humus -
is the “dirt” at my root
Adamah -
is the very “ground” from which I came.
It is from the earth
that I am formed;
it is to this earth
that I shall return.
Often I pretend as if I am something more;
Often I live as if I am so much less
than this human form.
But I have been called
to bear the weight of this flesh.
These ashes remind me
that I have been marked
eternally claimed
by the One
in whose Image
I have been made.
Tonight,
I need these ashes
to remind me of who I am.
I am human,
nothing more,
nothing less.
And yet,
it is so easy to forget;
It is so easy to get lost
trying to please
the competing forces
that attempt to shape us
in their own image.
The voices
     of not enough
     of scarcity
     of fear
     of mistaken identity.
O tonight,
I need these ashes
so that I
may feel,
may see,
may experience
as if the for the first time,
the truth of me,
and rest there
in this mystery.
Tonight,
I need these ashes
to tear my heart open
so I might accept
the fullness
of me;
     the pain,
     the joy,
     the sorrow,
     the celebration,
     the loneliness,
     the insecurity,
     the beauty,
     the frailty,
     the strength,
     the vulnerability,
     the persistence to be,
     the reality
of this magnificent
humanity.
The truth
of original blessing
out of which
we all were formed.
Tonight,
O Lord,
I need these ashes.
For these ashes lead me back
to communion
with you.

Choral Response:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.


Stanza 2: Repentance

Tonight,
I need these ashes…
in them I feel
     my frailty,
     my brokenness,
     my sin.
     my need to repent.
There is much
to confess.
There is so much
from which to turn.
These ashes
are my turning.
In these ashes
can be found a
return
to the way
of the Lord.
This return
begins
with admitting
the truth of
     my humanity,
     my frailty,
     my brokenness,
     my sin
to myself,
to others,
to God.
It is foolish
to think
that this
perfection
I chase
is something
within my grasp.
As if in attaining it
I will be saved
from myself.
My failure to gain it
reminds me,
yet again,
that I am not
who I pretend to be.
This disconnect
from reality
leads to the pursuit
     of fulfillment
     of identity
where neither
can be found.
The false narrative
     that more will be enough;
     that might makes right;
     that I deserve what you have;
     that if I
                pray hard enough
act rightly;
speak correctly;
live piously
that God will respond
in the manner I desire
even at the expense
of others.
At my worst
I strive to create
the divine
in my own image.
Tonight,
I need these ashes
to remind me
     of the weight of this flesh;
     of my sin;
     of sin.
          Hatred,
          Lies,
          Racism,
          Heterosexism,
          Islamophobia,
          Xenophobia,
          Fear,
          Privilege,
          Oppression,
          Manifest Destiny,
     are pervasive,
     are rampant,
     are ever present
out there; (pause)
in here.
Sure,
I claim grace,
but I refuse to offer it.
I desire mercy,
but I seldom relent.
I long for justice,
but I crave retribution.
I speak of love,
but I cower in fear.
So, tonight,
I need these ashes.
I need to repent.
I need to turn.
I need to return.
For in spite of my failings,
of which there are many,
God is
gracious
and merciful;
slow to anger,
and abounding in
steadfast love,
never ending love,
love.
Tonight,
O Lord,
I need these ashes.
For these ashes lead me back
to communion
with you.

Choral Response: 
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose. 


Stanza 3: Incarnation

Tonight,
I need these ashes.
For in them
I am reminded
that you,
O God,
chose to condescend,
     to come down,
     to bear the weight
of this flesh.
I am reminded
that you,
O God,
are not
     distant,
     out there,
     somehere,
awaiting our engagement.
These ashes
remind me
that you are
Immanuel,
the God who is with,
the One born through
water
and
blood;
a God of sorrows,
     acquainted with our grief,
     familiar with our pain.
These ashes
remind us
that you,
O Christ,
know what it is
     to hunger,
     to thirst,
     to desire,
     to weep,
     to love.
A God of vulnerability.
Tonight,
I need these ashes
to speak
into this humanity
that we are not
alone.
In our loneliness,
in our disease,
in our comfort,
in our confusion,
in our despair,
in our rejoicing,
in our frailty,
in our death,
in our dust,
You meet us,
O Christ.
That is what it means
that you are
a God of
in-carn-ation;
a God who
dwells
“in the flesh”.
You are
     life.
You are
     resurrection.
The One
to whom
we belong
in life and
in death.
Tonight,
I need these ashes
because in them
I find assurance
that the One
who formed
humanity
from the dust of the earth
took this
earthy existence
upon yourself
to join us in this
     messy,
     painfully beautiful,
     human experience.
Through that
     gritty,
     dusty,
     humanity,
You, O God,
     forgive,
     restore,
     redeem
us all.
It is through
that humanity
that we hear
Good News.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
     so great is your steadfast love towards us;
as far as the east is from the west,
     so far have you removed our transgressions from us.
Tonight,
O Lord,
I need these ashes.
For these ashes lead me back
to communion
with you.

Choral Response: 
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.


Stanza 4: Community/Communion

Tonight,
I need these ashes.
Perhaps you need them, too.
For in these ashes
we can see
that we
are not alone
     in our humanity,
     in our common struggle
          to live faithfully.
     in our striving to live
          into and out of
          the mystery of this
          thing we call
          faith.
I need to see these ashes
tonight
prominent on your forehead
where once
the waters of baptism
left their indelible mark
reminding you
of your identity.
Reminding me.
Of the truth of the original blessing
out of which we all were formed.
Reminding us
that Grace existed
long before
we were ever aware.
We need these ashes
to remind us that
     we are family,
          a people,
          a community,
          a body,
     where once there was nothing.
We have been called
to bear the weight of this flesh
together.
These ashes remind us
that we have been
     marked
     eternally claimed
by the One
in whose Image
we have been made.
These ashes
remind us that
we have been
     called,
     commissioned,
     sent
into the world
for the world
     to proclaim
     to be
     to live
the Good News
of divine
     acceptance,
     mercy,
          and
     love
for us all,
for all.
These ashes remind us
that we are
that which we have been
waiting for -
the body
of the
resurrected Christ,
partners with God
filled with the Spirit
to bring about
your beautifully
diverse kingdom
here
and
now,
within our midst.
Tonight,
as we begin these forty days,
as we begin this fast,
You,
O God,
invite us
     to remember our humanity,
     to turn away from our sin,
     to reflect upon your joining us in this flesh,
     to come together as one.
As we begin these forty days,
as we begin this fast,
you invite us to a feast.
You promise
to meet us here
at this table.
May the bread
we break
     move us
          to those who hunger,
may the cup
we drink
     awaken us
          to those who thirst,
may the table
we share
     lead us to reach out
          to those who are vulnerable.
May these elements,
may these ashes,
bring us to a new
commitment
to be one
in your spirit.
May our lives together
be reflections of
     your grace,
     your mercy,
     your justice,
     your love
for all of humanity,
and all of creation.

Tonight,
O Lord,
we need these ashes.
For these ashes lead us back
to communion
with one another,
with you.

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