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Get your Ashes to Church

Ash Wednesday Service is the best time and place to begin anew. To give church, God and yourself another chance. In the words of the hymn - if you wait till you are better you will never come at all.

In a show "Judging Amy" one of the characters, Vincent is a writer. A writer with a problem - he is stuck and can't write. This drags on and on until finally his mother tells him bluntly: "Vincent, the art of writing is the art of applying your ass to the chair."

Throughout the year I meet a lot of people who tell me "they are looking for a church." On a good day, I will smile and listen sympathetically. On a bad one I will ask "And how many have you visited so far?" But on both days, I do understand. Its always hard to get to church. And I am not talking about getting out of bed in the morning - that is NOT hard, let's be honest.

I mean the spiritual sloth that drags us down. We have not been there since last Easter. Its been months since we prayed - and I mean really prayed and not just shouted "OMG." Its been forever since we actually thought about who God is and what God expects from us. And make no mistake, God does expect things from us other than us being "happy." And so we feel guilt, and more guilt, and somehow church becomes that great dungeon, where if we show up "the roof will collapse on our head" and the minister will go bonkers.

As a minister, let me be honest. That's not true. I show up every Sunday to church, and the roof is still there - and it does not even tilt in my direction. Every time we think we are the biggest sinner ever - I bet you there is someone better at it either "church shopping" or in church already. So get over yourself! The roof will not collapse, the minister will not get a heart attack, and your skin will not burn when it touches a hymnal or church pew. The only thing that stands in the way between you and church is... well.. you. 

Attending Ash Wednesday Service is the best time and best place to begin again. To give church and God another chance. To give yourself another chance. In the words of the hymn - "if you wait till you are better you will never come at all."

So, I invite you all: the seekers, the lookers, the virtual church shoppers, the spiritual but not religious for whom this combo no longer works - come & join us for our Ash Wednesday Service at 7 PM.

To paraphrase: "Get your ashes to church"

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kazimierz Bem February 14, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Hey Ben, You are right - on some level the Trinity is exclusionary. Just like Judaism is or the Islam, or any other religion for that matter. Some claim they are THE ONLY way - some claim they are the BEST WAY to God but accept others. I guess I would say that different religions deal with different issues or fundamental questions: Judaism with law, Christianity with sin, Islam with obedience etc. People who say they are "spiritual but not religious" practice perhaps the ultimate form of exclusivity - their religion is THEIRS and theirs only. No one else gets in on it. I think with dogmas, people dont understand of what faith means. It does not mean intellectual assent, or intellectual solving or a riddle. Faith seeks understanding and wisdom - not knowledge. The difference is subtle but crucial. To your last point - we are. Consider coming to this: http://marlborough.patch.com/events/free-warm-soup-bread We would be delighted to have you and your daughter as guests :) Kaz
jaymike February 15, 2013 at 05:25 AM
“… religious doctrine is dictating a morality and religious certainty that frequently has no room to change even when the overwhelming preponderance of evidence mandates that it does.” What exactly do you mean? Can you cite actual examples? “… the trinity is unchangeable, and so there is no room for an Jew or a Muslim or an atheist or a pagan to also be right.” I say 2+2 = 4. You say 2+2 = 8. There is no room for us both to be right. That is the way truth works. What you believe about God is either true or false. It is actually nonsense to suggest all faiths should be mutually agreeable and accepting of each other when in reality they are mutually exclusive. As a result, only one can be right. I believe Jesus is God. The Jew and Muslim do not. Why do you put the burden on me to change so as not to offend the others? How about the Jew, the Muslim and you change? Afterall, the “preponderance of evidence” supports the Christian view of Jesus. It is interesting you close with this … “Keep doing your good works, and keep some room in your faith for those who think differently to also be right.” Your earlier comments leave the impression you leave no room for the devout Christian to be right.
Paul Bishop February 15, 2013 at 05:52 AM
Hi Pastor Bem.. we talked once before and I think maybe Ben said better what I was trying to say at the time but came across poorly- that many are turned off by what appears to dogma rather than faith. I think one of the things that has evolved about religion is a sense that though faith (of any flavor) is generally a good thing, religion (the human organizations known as churches) carries with it a ton of dogma that is unrelated (in their opinion) to a personal relationship with their diety.. and sometimes the dogma directly conflicts with the teachings. Churches are seen as corruptible human constructs, which in my opinion is the reality. When it comes to Christianity, the reference material (the Bible) is heavily edited, rewritten, redacted, and excludes many writings that were arguably as theologically important as the existing testaments. One then begins to realize that the Bible, which is at best a collection of moralistic parables, is itself actually just human words also, even if they were inspired by God, and in reality, much of it dogmatic rather than describing a relationship with God. I prefer to think of churches as social organizations which among other things guide people towards the moralistic teachings of whatever religious book they ascribe to.. but I think that a personal relationship with a creator is only cursorily connected to dogma and a building. Wasn't it "When two or more are gathered in my name, I am there." ?
Paul Bishop February 15, 2013 at 06:10 AM
(That doesn't mean to say churches are a bad thing!) I grew up in the church, Lutheran. My mom was the choir director, I even taught Sunday School for a time. I think there are valuable moral lessons to be learned, and churches/religions really are the first "laws" that guided humans into building societies. Churches and dogma have value, even if there is no diety watching over us - if only for teaching basic accepted human social conduct. Believe it or not, I think this trend in many cases can lead to what amounts to a much deeper consideration of one's OWN feelings on what is "true" and "right", and that in my mind is a far better relationship with one's God than simply parroting chants and songs, if only for the reason that the person spends the time searching their own soul and mind. Without doing that, what is there for God to have a relationship with anyway? :) Best regards.. just random thoughts on the subject!
Kazimierz Bem February 17, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Hey Paul, we discussed this before. The reason we need the church is because God did not come to save "individualistic individuals" - the one thing that is consistent and clear in all Jesus' teachings is that he called us into a community, also a community of believers. Human heart above all things is the most deceitful says the Psalmist and s/he means it. If you stick to only your own religion, your own spirituality, the God you say your worship, almost always looks suspiciously like an improved version of you & your own desires. The church - the community of belivers is there not just to congregate and help each other, but also to help correct our distortions of who God is (idols) and what God wants us to do. Your OWN spirituality, and God in the rainbow or fluffy bunny rainbow, puppies, beach - will not do that. It will preserve - but not save you

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