[Episcopal Public Policy Network] This year, the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s Lenten Series focuses on “Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World.” This Ash Wednesday reflection from Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for The Episcopal Church, is the first installment of the series. Each week, we will send an excerpt of the reflection to your inbox and provide you with a link to read the full reflection on our website.
“With Lazarus, Once Poor”An Ash Wednesday ReflectionInto paradise may the angels lead you,
At your coming, may the martyrs receive you
And lead you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
May the choirs of angels receive you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham,
And with Lazarus, once poor, may you have life everlasting.
On Ash Wednesday, as we begin our journey through Lent, the Church invites us to consider our inescapable captivity to death. “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The Presiding Bishop, in her Lenten message to the Church, describes the “provocative experience” of imposing ashes on the heads of toddlers with those words, and I recall a parish priest of mine, some years ago, preaching about the cauldron of his own emotions – including very real anger at God – as he placed ashes on the foreheads of his own young children and reminded them that they will die. Lent always begins with a jarring reminder that each of us is mortal, formed of the dust, and that none of us can escape death.
Except, of course, that we can.
Lent, as we know, has an endpoint, and that endpoint is the furnace at the very center of our faith: the paradox that, though human existence is enmeshed with death at every turn and appears to crash into the finality of death at the conclusion of every life, the true end of the story is something else entirely. The true destiny God intends for us is quite the opposite of death. “I have come that they might have life, and might have it abundantly,” Jesus says (John 10). Lent is all about how the Church draws us into the very center of that desire in the heart of God. Abundant life is God’s intent for us, both for eternity and, paradoxically, for the here and now. Lent is about how we pivot from the path we’re on – the path of all human flesh that runs through, and ends in, the valley of the shadow of death – and onto the path that is God’s true destiny for us.
Please CLICK HERE to access the full reflection.