I grew up in a very non-high church. (I don’t like the phrase “low church” — makes me feel less than). I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church with Pentecostal spirituality (the ultimate in non-high church). I grew up in a church that eschewed robes and anything that hinted towards high church traditions and liturgy.
The church calendar has always been a mystery to me. I’ve toyed with the fact that the church calendar really wouldn’t mean a whole lot for communities that deal with wet season and dry season vs. winter, spring, summer, and fall. Or I wonder how different colored raiments would work in sub-Sahara Africa. But I must say there is something to be said about seeing the story of Jesus unfolded throughout the year.
So up until a few years ago, I hadn’t really participated in an Ash Wednesday service. It just wasn’t something that was a high priority in my community. But I’m learning and growing. Appreciating the meaning of Ash Wednesday beyond the external. For I truly am dust and to dust I will return.
So there are two moments in my Ash Wednesday experience that deepened my appreciation of the meaning of Ash Wednesday.
The first is a completely non-Spiritual, non-liturgical experience. I played basketball for the first time in about a year and a half. (You can attribute this to temporary Linsanity). After a handful of times running up and down the court (I originally thought it was going to be a half court game), my mortality became very real to me. For the rest of the day, I walked around like an old man. Reminded that I am no longer 21 years old. My body is decaying faster than I would like.
Later that evening, I attended my church’s Ash Wednesday service. Watching my very diverse church join together in the Ash Wednesday ritual, I realized what a powerful statement of multi-ethnicity Ash Wednesday proved to be. We are all mortal. Despite our cultural differences, we are all dust in the wind. Moving towards the inevitable moment when we will return to dust. It brings a level of equality to the church. We can claim our worth, but our equality is most revealed in our united mortal frailty.