Why we need these ashes: An excerpt from Bishop Gayle Harris's Ash Wednesday sermon


...We need Ash Wednesday, the mark of ashes, to remember we are mortal, temporary travellers on the planet, and that we are given stewardship to care for God's creation and each other.

We need these ashes.  Our civic discourse is full of appeals to the lowest and most base in us, victimizing victims so that those who think they should be entitled can again feel that they are above others, "true" Americans.  We need Ash Wednesday, the mark of ashes, to remind us that we are to be humble, just as God in Jesus humbled himself to lift us, and so we are to lift others.

We need these ashes.  Too often we are silent in the face of prejudice and bullying tactics and untruths.  We need these ashes, because each time we are silent, we participate in injustice, we empower rhetoric of the gutter and pull each of us down to be less than what God desires and dreams for us.

...God says:  Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into your house, to cover the naked? [Isaiah 58:6-7]

...We begin Lent, today, Ash Wednesday, to re-engage in the Gospel with a cross smudged on our solemn foreheads.

Rabbis teach that each of us has two pockets.  In one should be the message, "I am dust and ashes," and in the other, we should have written, "For me the universe is made."  These two ideas go hand in hand as we travel through the Lenten journey.

It's a time to look within and become aware of our own mortality and, at the same time, hold up our eyes and engage the fast that God chooses:  justice.

Excerpted from the Ash Wednesday sermon given by Bishop Gayle E. Harris at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, March 1, 2017