An Ash Wednesday reflection by EPF Chair Bob Davidson
“The Spirit of GOD is upon me because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to those who are bound; and to proclaim that the Kingdom is breaking into the world now.”
– Isaiah 61: 1-5
Ash Wednesday begins our observance of Lent with the opportunity for a fresh start. “Create and make in us new and contrite hearts” is the invocation from our opening Collect. Each year we are invited to acknowledge that our hearts may be tarnished and heavy with the daily call to live a faithful life.
I yield my own inadequacy to renew myself by a reminder of ashes that are smudged on my forehead. My quiet prayer is create and make in me a new heart. The ashes are not so much about my own immortality that I will return to dust, but rather for me it is about powerlessness. Within my own power and inner strength I cannot renew myself. I can, however, open myself and my powerlessness to be recreated and remade by God’s spirit.
What that recreated and remade spirit will look like resounds with Isaiah’s prophesy that sustained Christ in his earthly mission: preaching to the poor; healing the wounded, liberating the captive and relentlessly announcing the breaking in of the peaceable Kingdom.
I remember as a young person facing the threat of jail because of my refusal to fight in Vietnam. A spirit beyond myself empowered me to boldly face down the powers that demanded compliance with a policy of racism and oppression. It was then that I was recreated and remade when the Spirit of God was upon me and anointing me.
Where are the dark recesses of injustice and degradation of human life that this same Spirit is inviting you to proclaim that the Kingdom is breaking forth? Will you allow this Ash Wednesday to recreate and remake you into an instrument for peace in a world bent on destruction and dominance? May you find a fresh start deep within your own new and contrite heart to say, “Here I am Lord, send me!”
Bob Davidson is an Episcopal priest in Colorado who serves as a hospice chaplain and is the national chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.