Dear Faith Des Peres Community,
So I’ve always thought it a little bit odd that we hear a reading from Matthew's gospel on Ash Wednesday in which Jesus tells us not to practice our piety before others, and then we go and do just that by putting ashes on our foreheads for everyone to see.
The tradition came after the Bible, of course. As you heard me say on Sunday, Ash Wednesday came about in the 6th and 7th century, long after Matthew composed his gospel. And I understand the tradition – that we begin the season of Lent acknowledging our own mortality, and acknowledging that unless we’re willing to die to our old ways, we’ll never be resurrected into new life. So we begin Lent admitting that we’ve sinned, and we pledge ourselves to live anew.
But still, this black smudge tells everyone on the street, “Look at me! I’m a Christian.” For some of us, Ash Wednesday is as visible a sign of our faith as some will ever get, unless you wear a cross or your FDP t-shirt.
And for some people, saying “I’m a Christian,” can feel a little weird. It’s not that they’re denying their faith, it’s just that they don’t want to be lumped in with the type of Christianity that gets the most press; you know the kind – it’s more intolerant than inclusive, a little more hateful and homophobic.
It was out of that reality that the Glitter Ash Project was born. If we’re going to wear our piety on our foreheads, some people said, why not let it speak to the hopeful, inclusive, called-to-love-our-neighbors’ message Christ told us to be about.
Why not add some glitter to our ashes, they suggested? The glitter will be a sign of hope, they said. The glitter with the ash will signal our promise to repent, but also our promise to show up, to witness, and to work for Christ’s inclusive love. Because glitter never gives up. Any contact with glitter and it gets all over you. You can’t get rid of it. Want to put it back in the bottle? Good luck with that!
Glitter is like love, Christ’s love. It should get all over people.
Now you should know that the Glitter Ash project was born out of the LGBTQ community. No surprise there, I suppose. But it goes beyond the LGBTQ community. Glitter says, “I won’t live in fear”; I won’t tolerate racism; I won’t tolerate antisemitism or homophobia; and I won’t be a part of the hatred running rampant. Because I’m Christian. And I believe Jesus really does call us to love our neighbor.
So I’ll get ashes, because I know I don’t always do that.
But I can also get a side of glitter, because I believe on the other side of Lent is the resurrection, and with that comes new life which believes life destroys death and that love conquers hate. Always.
Can I just say, I've never seen people so excited to receive ashes? "Glitter me up," someone said as they brushed their hair away from their forehead. "I could use a side of hope," said another. And afterwards, "I feel like I need to go somewhere with my glitter ashes!"
It was an awesome experience.
Our theme for Lent this year is “Reflect, Renew Rejoice”. As we move through Lent we will:
· Reflect on our own season of life.
· Renew ourselves spiritually and personally.
· Rejoice in the life that is possible through Christ.
And it all began on Ash Wednesday with glitter.
Glitter me up!
I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
PS: This Sunday we will also have communion, so don’t forget your food for Feeding the Flock.