All this churchy lingo and vocabulary sometimes gets in the way! The other day I was creating a blurb for our monthly newsletter to advertise
and educate folks about the upcoming Ash Wednesday service including the Imposition of Ashes. “Imposition”? It occurred to me that there might be a better word. After all, how many of us are out there using that word every other day. So, I did what I always do I pushed the little buttons on the computer to provide me with synonyms. This is what I get: imposition = burden, nuisance, obligation, hassle, annoyance, bother. What? That can’t be right, so I checked it again, maybe I hadn’t pushed the right buttons. And there it came again: imposition = burden, nuisance, obligation, hassle, annoyance, bother. Then it hit me, “impose”. I know that word. I’ve used it: “I don’t mean to impose”. Yep my computer thesaurus is correct.
Burden, nuisance, obligation, hassle, annoyance, bother. Some folks would agree that’s what religion is all about. Of course lots of us don’t want to hear that. We like our religion that helps us, that gets us through the day. There’s nothing wrong with faith as a crutch in this world. But that’s only one piece of it. The other is what is at the heart of Ash Wednesday. The IMPOSITION of Ashes disrupts our daily denial of sin and death. This is difficult and painful; it is very humbling. I think that’s why some folks may come to worship that night, but not step up. It is uncomfortable to admit how badly we are broken. How we are (as my 9 yr old son stated) dying every day. But again, that’s only half of the picture. The IMPOSITION of Ashes calls us to not give in to the fatalism of the moment. We are called to graciously admit our human frailty and fatality, and we are called to live into the grace of God that abounds for us and for all. Now that should really get in the way–the way we think, the way we love, the way live.