Pastor Steve and I ventured out in faith on Ash Wednesday to offer a Lenten blessing to people who were strolling Pearl Street Mall. For those who have a ritual of mass or reflective service, this notion might seem unnecessary, but what we experienced was a deep hunger for blessing. An encounter with those who wanted a moment of marking and embrace by God through a blessing came as a joy and thanksgiving throughout the process and upon reflection.
Admittedly, I drove us to the mall with trepidation in my heart. How would I be perceived? How many people would reject the invitation and offer? How courageous would I be to give something that is not of me but mine to share as Jesus’ servant? These anxious thoughts met with the logistical realities- Do I wear a stole or robe? Will the ashes simply blow away in the 40 mph wind? Can we park somewhere for free?- and created quite a frenzied entrance into it all. Yes, I’m trained to bless people, but crossing a forehead with ashes is the simple piece of a much larger exchange that requires me to show up just enough to allow the Holy Spirit to find way and connection into another’s heart. Likewise, in a curious civic and cultural climate, I feel vulnerable as a human when I forget even slightly that God abides in it all.
So to this vulnerability I look for a moment and reflect on Ash Wednesday following Epiphany and moving toward Good Friday. We worship a God who left a settled and comfortable space (similar to my office, I sure) to be with humanity in our joys and weaknesses, our longings and loneliness, our rejection and appreciation (I have a face for each of these expressions of humanity). In his humanness, Jesus saw life and death first hand (dust to dust, ashes to ashes) and ways the systems and relationships enhanced life or accelerated death, only to embrace it all in the fullest measure through suffering on the cross. Dr. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” No doubt Jesus lived vulnerability and in a much simpler way, Pastor Steve and I did, too, on the Pearl Street Mall. In return came “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity,” as Dr. Brown states.
We continue to live this Lenten journey of reflection and courage together connecting through studies, small groups, and especially worship, where we are focusing on how vulnerability plays out in our daily lives. We examine all this as a community for we know joy and thanksgiving, “love and belonging” will blossom in and through it all. As we each learn to lean in a little more to moments of vulnerability with our dear loved ones and community at large, may the frenzied thoughts be calmed with God’s assurance that “God-With-Us” journeys alongside.