Progressive Christian Social Action
Hearts and Ashes
Today is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I usually observe both. My mother Ruth’s birthday was on February 14, so I’ll be carrying her with me all day (as I often do). This evening, I’ll go with two of my granddaughters while they hand out hand-made valentines at a residence for seniors. Then tonight, Guari and I will celebrate our love by going out Salsa dancing, for the first time in a long while.
Ash Wednesday is a whole different kind of observation. I’ll jog to town for the noon service, which includes the imposition of ashes, and I’ll hear again the biblical call to repentance and the reminder of our mortality: “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
I am grateful for the love that blesses my life and for the divine love which surrounds and enlivens us. At the same time, I grieve for the ways that I participate in and am complicit in institutions and systems that cause harm. The “Powers that be” are corrupted by money, dominated by corporations, supported by hierarchical religions and ideologies, and enforced by violence, with the ultimate sanction being death. Current harm includes: immigration policies that scapegoat our young (the Dreamers) and separate families, a tax bill that gives tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations while cutting benefits for poor and working class people, a proposal to cut SNAP (food stamps) benefits, the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and the locking in of a future of ever-accelerating climate change, using the shock of Hurricane Maria to privatize Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, developing more useable nuclear weapons along with a doctrine that makes them more likely to be used, destroying cities in Iraq in the fight against ISIS while refusing to rebuild or give aid to repair the damage because “We’re not in the business of nation-building,” and the current popularity of a form of Christianity that seems to be the antithesis of what Jesus lived and taught. These are just a few. The list goes on.
Ash Wednesday and the whole forty days of Lent give me an opportunity to repent for my participation, to resist the dehumanizing influence of the Powers, to renounce their bribes, to rebuke them by calling them to repentance, and to recall the Love in which we “live and move and have our being.”
Love is what motivates me to observe this day and this season. My understanding of the “good news” proclaimed and demonstrated by Jesus is that “God is love.” This means to me that love is the ultimate Reality, the power that brought the universe into being, the Ground of Being, the Source and End of all things. If this is true (and I stake my life on it), then living out of that love is the purpose and meaning of life. And, as Jesus demonstrated, this means acting in solidarity with those who are marginalized, nonviolently resisting the Powers that threaten us (or those who are most vulnerable), and creating an alternative community of inclusion, based on love.
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