Author’s Note: Ok, so the streak probably looks pretty dead to you! But I wrote this yesterday, and then got distracted, and didn’t get a chance to hit publish. That’s on me. So, two posts today!
Last night I had one of those moments in ministry. There aren’t many like it. Most of the moments in ministry, at least in a pretty large congregation like Westminster, are chaotic. Running from meeting to meeting, planning events, looking at budgets, sending and receiving e-mail. There’s a lot of “stuff.”
For instance, my day yesterday: I went to an 8:30 am clergy breakfast. I came back to the office to finish writing my bible study. I filmed our announcement show, in which I puked up cereal. I finished the talk for youth group. At 4:00 I went down the hall and lead our Wednesday Bible Study. At 5:00 I hung out with students and talked life with them over fried food. At 6:00 I spoke to high school students about prayer and how sometimes we can loose sight of God. And then at 7:00 I ran back down the hall to my office, put my robe on, and got ready for our Ash Wednesday Service.
I had made the offer to the high school students that they could either come to the Ash Wednesday service, or go ahead downstairs with some of our volunteers and play kickball. Knowing our high school students as I do, I had assumed they would all prefer the later. But as I sat in up front in our sanctuary preparing myself for worship, I saw 5-10 of our kids walk in the back and have a seat. I leaned over to my colleague and friend Louise and said “Dibs.”
When it came time for the imposition of ashes, I made sure that I was the one to be offering ashes to my students. There is so much of ministry we do that is un-embodied. I can’t think of a less embodied act than sending an e-mail to let someone know where the coffee filters are. I barely need to be anywhere to do that. And yet, on Ash Wednesday, I reached out and physically touched people. I reminded them that we are dust, and to dust we will return. I reminded them that this life we’re holding on to is fragile, so we need to have our priorities straight. I reminded them that while this is the beginning of a Lenten journey, we know how this story ends, don’t we?
There was something about that last night that was really beautiful, especially when it came to the youth group. Obviously I’m a pastor to everyone, but I know their stories better. They are the ones who come in to my office after school to tell me what happened at lunch that day. They are the ones who cry on my couch when the boy breaks their heart. They are the ones who live life in community with each other, and invite me in almost daily. It was something special to give ashes to them.
I wish more of ministry was embodied like that. I wish more of ministry was in the physical realm, and not just e-mail and blog posts. And what’s nice about being a pastor is that slowly, all too slowly, I can start to make ministry more embodied. I can turn the tide of what’s expected of us as pastors and bring it back to what I think Jesus would have wanted. A shared life, and stories to spare.
Let’s live in to the Ashes my friends.