Our parish's Ash Wednesday service this year made me think of an old "Outer Limits" episode entitled 'Cry of Silence'. That episode concerned alien tumbleweeds -- no kidding -- and a scientist's attempts to communicate with them.
What made me associate the Ash Wednesday liturgy with wind-blown tumbleweeds were the changes over the years of my ministry in that service. Now don't worry! This is not a 'Boomer's' reaction to contemporaneity. No, this is a reflection on the change-without-end that is inherent within the human world and on the universal element that will always lie within the penitential core of Ash Wednesday.
Here is the prayer to be said by 'The Minister' at the end of the "Penitential Office for Ash Wednesday" as required by the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
_O God, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive; Receive our humble petitions; and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us; for the honour of Jesus Christ,our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
Will you look at that?: "... and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us."
Such is the nailed truth of the human condition, the inevitably defeated conflict between the ego and the id, by which the ego is bound and chained. Yet there is a way out.
That is Ash Wednesday, no matter where the "Tumbleweed" innovations take us, It is the Heart and Soul (Huey Lewis and the News, 1983) of Lent.
Podcast 298 is dedicated to the Rev. Stu Shelby, Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Winter Park, FL.