Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes to go

"I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word."

The season of Lent is oddly satisfying. I like hymns in minor keys. I am relieved to simplify, to examine unnecessary habits, and start the hard work of decluttering my soul from all that has hit at it hard this year. I love leading the quiet liturgy at noon, and have been surprised by the tremendous calm that comes over the congregation during the service.

Later in the day, I sat with someone. I had the great privilege of listening as he examined his life. We talked about how sobering this day is, but how hopeful it also feels. There was a richness in this conversation that was pure grace.

I've been intrigued by a recently popular practice of going out to public places to impose ashes. A few colleagues have done this, and I may be doing it next year, too. Standing at a train depot with ashes is counter-cultural, in that it wouldn't be terribly popular to remind folks of their mortality. And I wonder how it could come close to the power of the Spirit at work as fiercely it was in the private conversation I had today, made possible by quiet space and a dimly lit sanctuary. There's only one way to find out. So I hope that, next Ash Wednesday, my deacon friend and I will do just that.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Not the usual lunch conversation

One more reason to love Iowa City: as a parishioner (M.) and I were finishing good conversation and lunch at a coffee shop, another parishioner (J.) waved and approached our table. M said to J, "What are you up to today?"

The reply? "I just finished reading Augustine's Confessions for the fourth time." Yes, J does teach in the Department of Religion, but still, his reply to M's breezy question utterly delighted me. And this brief exchange reminded me that in the midst of an intense week with people, someone usually comes along to say the unexpected thing, or lighten the tone of the day. I love Iowa City.