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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Imposition of Ashes

Ash Wednesday fell on March 9th this year.  I was really busy.  I had just finished two school auctions in the month preceding; doing 10 auction art projects with 160 children at one school and 12 other art projects with 500 students at another school.  I had attended an Institute of Federal Health Care Round Table the week before and the very next day I would fly to Bellin Health in Green Bay Wisconsin to present a speech.

I was busy, but I was thinking very carefully about Lent.  You see, I was having trouble with the whole concept of giving something up for Lent.  When I read the words of the Gospel, I hear a lot more of go, do and walk.  And not so much of the thou shalt not or the do without.  It seemed more about breaking bread with each other and not so much about removing chocolate from our diet.

I felt that Jesus had a greater “ask.”  So for Lent, I vowed to do more art.  I would ask every conference planner if I could paint on site (and sometimes I would just show up with easel in hand.)  When the Evangelism team and Vicar Cassandra suggested imposing ashes on the foreheads of the Metro commuters, I leapt at an opportunity to fulfill my Lenten pledge.
Talking with a passerby
On Ash Wednesday, Vicar Cassandra and I walked seven blocks to Van Ness UDC Metro Station.  I set up my easel and canvas.   She held a small container of ashes and a sign that said “Ashes to Go.” 

Vicar Cassandra Lamb is finishing up her year with us at Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Washington DC.  This past Sunday she presented a Sermon referencing her experience that day.  This is from the Sermon “GO!” on her Blog: Preaching Bytes.

Matthew 28:16-20 (Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.)
“I must admit that this has always been one of my favorite scripture passages. It makes me feel motivated. It lights a fire underneath me. It inspires me. Whenever the going gets tough I remember that Jesus has sent me to evangelize, to make disciples, and that he has sent the Holy Spirit to empower me for the mission. I remember this passage going through my head on Ash Wednesday this year. Regina Holliday and I had made our way to the Van Ness Metro Station. Regina had her easel and paints and I had some ashes in a container. Our hope was to remind people that it was Ash Wednesday and to place ashes on their foreheads reminding them that they are dust and to dust they will return. As we began I was very hesitant. I guess you could say that I was listening to what my mom had taught me as a young girl on the prairie, “don’t talk to strangers.” Eventually it became a little easier to greet people walking down the sidewalk, after all that is the first step in evangelizing. Of course, we got a few crazy looks as we greeted people on that brisk morning. But as Regina and I walked back up Connecticut Avenue later that morning we couldn’t help but talk about how we had made a difference. Even if we only put ashes on one person’s forehead, we had begun to make disciples. That was a great reminder of why we had gone on our mission that day. We were not expecting to return to St. Paul’s with ten new members or even one. We had gone because I felt like God was telling me to GO. God was showing me that in this busy city where almost everyone works over forty hours, they may not be able to make it to church on Ash Wednesday. God was telling me to take the ashes to them. For at least one moment on that morning, I imagine that most people were reminded that it was Ash Wednesday and even if they didn’t know what that meant they asked us, asked a friend, or googled it on their Smartphone. That day Regina and I were on a mission. We were commissioned. We were sent to make disciples. We were sent to GO.”
Painting for Lent
I am glad I went out with Vicar Cassandra that day.  I am sure that my presence at the easel helped some folks conquer their fears and talk with us.  I am honored that I had the chance to paint the serene countenance of Vicar Cassandra’s face.  I am glad my Lenten Journey led to creating more individual art works in the past four months than in any other time in my life. 

I thank God for the inspiration to ask Kaiser Permanente if we could have The Walking Gallery.  I am not sure that the Gallery would have happened without this Lenten pledge.

I thank Vicar Cassandra for sharing Matthew 28-16-20 with us, For it speaks of Galilee.  If you have ever seen me speak, you might have noticed I often close with my poem “The Wheals on The Bus.”  In that poem I say:

“I will see you in Galilee, Galilee, Galilee.
I will see you
In the ring, the circle, the circuit,
And the wheals they are returning. “

When Fred was sick, it was during our Lenten journey.  We celebrated Easter in a hospital room.  The next week, Pastor Tom at St. Paul’s read three gospel verses referring to the words of Christ saying, “I will go ahead to Galilee.”

I asked Pastor what did Galilee mean?  “Other than the place?” he said.  Yes, what does the word mean?  He did not know.  So after service, I went home and looked it up online.  Galilee means the ring, the circle the circuit. 

Do you think God chuckled the night of The Walking Gallery?  Do think God smiled as we circled the smart wall time and time again and created a little touch of Galilee in Washington DC?
Vicar Cassandra

1 comment:

  1. Maybe we have all been thrown into Galilee. Maybe God is very happy with your work. Perhaps you have been chosen to bring the cause to a new dimension, a larger realm, one that will not be closed or hidden from those who matter most, those just like Fred, Michael, James, Catherine, Kyle, Pat, Cal, Jennie, Mary, Elizabeth, Lewis and the multitudes of others. Those who yet live, and shall continue to live fruitful and happy lives, hearing your voice, and the many other voices like yours, due to the calling all who have been chosen for this work, unlike any other work of any other missionary on earth.

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