The Dissolution of Such Illusions


Our celebration of Easter begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by understanding the human predicament. 

Dr. Craig Keen
The Dissolution of Such Illusions

Ash Wednesday is a holiday. Or so the church’s calendar tells us. It is not like other holidays celebrated, say, in America. This one celebrates our flesh, our frailty, our mortality. It is the day we are asked by the church’s calendar to remember that we are going to die. And so, it calls us to repentance, to metanoia, to setting our minds on the gift of God, the grace of God, the coming of God that we cannot compel or hasten, but to which we may open with gratitude. Thus it is a season of fasting, a season in which we practice dying, in which we listen to the word of God . . . that we cannot—but may—call upon God to be merciful.

Perhaps Ash Wednesday, more than any other holiday, shows how very different the task of the church is from the task both of conservative and progressive America. America, too, has holidays. Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. America’s holidays are vacation days, days when we vacate work for the sake of leisure and revelry. They are bright and sunny days of play and indulgence. America works for holidays, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement—for time off. But Ash Wednesday is a somber day, a serious day, a day of the work of remembering our mortality, of the fact that no one gets out of here alive.

The giddiness of America’s holidays is all about optimism, about “Yes we can!” It is at the same time all about nostalgia, about “MAGA!” It is all about a tomorrow we can from today make brighter and richer—by hard work and perseverance, by strength and good luck, by honing skill and by good genes. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” The somberness of Ash Wednesday is all about the dissolution of such illusions. It is the declaration that we do not have what it takes. It says, “No! We can’t!” It says, “We are broken people.” It says, “There is no way there from here.” It says, “We are going to die.” These are horrifying words to ears formed in America. But to the church, they are words of unsurpassing hope.


Note from Mike.
I invite you to listen to Craig's Ash Wednesday presentation at Living Waters Church in San Diego--   Ash Wednesday Service March 6, 2019 





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