Let’s get dirty — sermon for Ash Wednesday, 2013

Since when did dirt become the same, become synonymous with bad–dirty thoughts, words, deeds? When a cop is bad, they’re dirty. When we don’t want to get involved–we don’t want to get our hands dirty. The word smut which we use to talk about the worst things like porn, is just the name for a small flake of dirt like the ash from an engine or coal.
I ask again how did dirt get to be so bad? It wasn’t always so. Just ask a child. The dirt is the earth’s play doh, it is monsters and armies, it is mud pies and smiles.
Ask a gardener like I’ve been trying to become. Dirt is good, it is the womb full of nutrients, the place that holds the water where the seed can grow to become cucumbers, and tomatoes, melons, and the food we need. Dirt is the place of creation as God in the 2nd story of creation in Genesis chapter 2. We are told God forms us out of dirt. So how did dirt get to be so bad?
Somewhere along the way, dirt becomes the enemy we want to keep at bay. We want it to stay in it’s proper place–to stay put in the garden, in the pot, in the yard, along the sidewalk. It is not socially acceptable on our clothes, in the carpet, in our air, underneath our fingernails,and on our skin.
That’s the problem with today–tonight we take the dirt, the ashes of old dried palm leaves, take this dirt and wear it on our skin, not even on our knees as if we’d been hard at work, but on our heads as if we’d tripped head-on, face first into the mire and the murk.
Which we surely have done. The dirt we wear, the ashes on our foreheads show to all the world that we have indeed fallen. And that is why it make us uncomfortable. It is the admitting that we are falling out of our pristine palaces of purity. No matter how much we pretend we haven’t fallen, we have. Fallen into gossip, run head long into hate, fallen into the welcoming arms of greed and fear.
We have fallen into the mire of life. We can’t keep our hands from getting dirty in the workings of this world. Our sin clings to us, get’s in and underneath our fingernails, in each and every crack and wrinkle, it gets into our eyes, it smells and is every just like the dirt and ash. Sin, like death, like dirt and dust is unavoidable and inevitable. Tonight we get to admit it, let our guard down, stop pretending we’re perfect, this dirt cleanses us from the great sin of self-righteousness. And we receive, simply receive the release of God’s love, freeing us to live today and tomorrow, not in fear of dirt, not in fear of sin,not in fear of the stuff of
life, but embracing it, getting our hands dirty in this God’s world, falling deeper and deeper into love with it, with one another, and with the God who claims us. The God who isn’t afraid of a bit of dirt, isn’t ashamed of us, but reaches out to touch, to hold, to mark us with the mark of a life well worn with love, the cross of life. Come, come remember, admit, be at peace that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Amen.
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You’ve got a beautiful Body

“If I tell you you have a beautiful body, would you hold it against me.”  My husband has told me that’s from a song, but I first heard those words as a child spoken by my mother.

Yeah,that’s the kind of home I came from.  No wonder I entered the ministry.

Putting all the inappropriate innuendo aside.  I’ve got to say “You’ve got a beautiful body.”

Yes, I mean you dear reader whoever you are, whatever size or shape or color or whatever you are.  You and your body are beautiful.

While our bodies are not perfect, we are rockin’ some amazing feats of mechanics, biology, chemistry, etc. and so forth. The body is part of God’s good and glorious creation.  It isn’t something to be ignored and despised.   But,     and this is a big but.  Our bodies are not to be worshipped.  Nor are they to be objectified. It seems we can’t get it right.  On one hand we abuse the body with all sorts of unhealthy living and activities.  On the other we judge people by their bodies.  In the church we have been guilty of separating the body from the soul.  We have exploited some body/spirit dichotomy.  It’s as if all we will hear on Sunday morning is Paul’s words about punishing his body to enslave it.  All our talk, preaching, and singing of disembodied souls reuniting with lost loved ones behind pearly gates misses God’s emphasis on healing in the present.  For the last several weeks many of us Christians have been hearing stories of healing from the Bible.  This coming Sunday is no exception.   Our first lesson tells us the story of Naaman’s healing from 2 Kings 5.1-14.  Our reading from Mark’s Gospel tells us that a  leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42)  God doesn’t despise the body and seek to simply free us from these earthly fleshy casings. God doesn’t despise her creation. Matter matters from the smallest drop of ocean water to richest and most influential celebrity and in between–everything and every body.