Time and Place

Tonight I went to a church in midtown for the Ash Wednesday liturgy. I love that church, for many reasons, but one of those reasons is the juxtaposition of what goes on inside the church with what's going on in the city. Tonight, while the priest was inviting us to a Holy Lent and blessing ashes and smudging ashy crosses on black, white, brown, old, young, and what-have-you foreheads there were sirens blasting outside and horns beeping as the world loudly went on in its lurching from crisis to crisis. Inside we were kneeling to say the 51st Psalm; outside, people were being rude to one another in their cars. Inside we were hearing that we are to remember we are dust; outside a siren wailed and lights flashed as a firetruck or perhaps an ambulance roared by. Inside white robed teenagers with calmness and purpose carried the wooden cross and the torches to accompany the Gospel book into the midst of the congregation; outside, teenagers were drifting by the windows, perhaps oblivious to what we were doing inside.

My friend Elizabeth delivered a lovely homily connecting the temporal and the eternal and reminding us that we are both temporal and eternal - our bodies came from the earth and will return to it some day and yet the love of God, from which we are also formed and to which we will also return, is eternal. Being reminded that we are dust is what we did tonight and also what we did last year and the year before that and on and on. And that is what connects us to that promise of eternal love and eternal life. In this life we will return to dust but after that we will have a new, eternal life in the presence of God.

Time and place, temporal and eternal, music and torches, sirens and busy city noises, ashes and bread and wine. Again.