By Mary Ann Moman
As I write this I am watching a sudden snow shower. Just five minutes ago the sun was shining. Even as the snow is falling I can see blue sky and a faint glimmer of the sun’s rays. The snow ended as quickly as it began and the sun is shining again.
Later today I will attend the Ash Wednesday service at Broadway UMC. Those who gather for worship will be reminded: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ashes will be imposed on my forehead reminding me of my mortality and my need for repentance and of God’s great mercy. Palm branches from last Palm Sunday will be burned to make the ashes. From the alleluias come the ashes. From the ashes we move to alleluias.
The snow shower this morning reminds me of the many times we are interrupted by unexpected storms in our lives. Unlike the snow this morning, these storms often last days and weeks: a sudden death, the unexpected financial crisis, the loss of a job, a crisis of faith. We find ourselves living in the midst of ashes that were once our alleluias. In a few weeks we will once again celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his journey toward the cross. In Jesus’ death and resurrection the ashes are turned to alleluias.
As we all know, moving from ashes to alleluias is a process and not a simple transaction. There is no right formula for transformation. Balzac wrote, “I am here to live out loud.” His words might be a path to follow when we are reminded of our mortality and need for repentance; when we forget that we have been transformed and are being transformed. Enter this darkness boldly. It is an act of courage to receive the ashes. We are marked as people of the cross and as people who know God’s mercy. We also know that the ashes we carry are not the end of the story. To ‘live out loud’ is to proclaim our hope that the alleluias are in our midst and yet to come. Resurrection is coming. Underneath the snow there are flowers just waiting for the warmth of spring to coax them out of ground and fill the earth with beauty. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6. “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true…..as dying, and behold we live…….as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” Lent is a time to recognize what is already within us and awaken it to the light of day.
It is my joy to work with pastors and congregations who are recognizing and experiencing their transformation from ashes to alleluias through their participation in Rejuvenate. Each story is different and yet there are similarities. There has been a decision to live as transformed people. A plan has been put in place to facilitate that reality. Prayer and encouragement are the daily practices that help these pastors and congregations to make choices that lead to their personal and corporate transformation. They rely on God’s grace to transform ashes to alleluias. It is through God’s gracious work in Jesus that we are redeemed. May you know this grace in your life as you journey toward Easter.
For more information about educational programs and grants offered through the United Methodist Foundation/Rejuvenate, go to www.umfindiana.org.