Ash Wednesday and Our Connectedness – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

Lent according to Wikipedia “is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, alms giving, and self-denial.”

This begins with Ash Wednesday, which is today, where ashes are applied indicting our own mortality as we trace the story of Jesus as he faces Jerusalem, his betrayal, and his own death. The dust can be an exercise that focuses on death, on sin, mortality, on repentance.

But it also can be a sign which makes us think of our connections to one another. When we all apply ash, we share that commonality, as opposed to symbols that set us apart.

There is something about experiencing a common lot in life that can build solidarity. After all, we all are going to get sick, need medical care. So, isn’t health care for all a requirement? If we’re all lucky, we’re all going to get old, not be able to work. So, isn’t retirement security something that should be a given?

The recognition of a common lot also has a way of taking down the divides. From the pope to the president to you and I to the migrant worker to a child we share the same DNA. We all came into the world the same way and we will all exit the world the same way. Speaking of DNA, we know we share 90% of our DNA with chimps, we also share 88% with rats, 84% with our dogs. The divides between us and the animal kingdom begins to fall apart.

When I did an Ash Wednesday service in Lawrence, we focused on another fact that brings us together. Carl Sagan writes that we are made of star dust. “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.” That is one way to consider the ash of Ash Wednesday. It’s the star stuff we apply identifying us as sharing a common source. The death of stars produces the spark of life. Life and death have a mutual relation to one another.

It is that moment when we recognize our deep interconnectedness, even dependence, on our natural world, on each other that we’re able to be responsive to the needs of one another, including our self. It’s in that recognition of our fragility, of our common lot in life, and yes even in our death, that we can move to solidarity, that we can cut across the barriers and hierarchies that seem to define human life.

And it’s the basis for repentance, the Christian term, for explaining the response needed when we see a world filled with the kinds of problems we have from deportation raids to hate crimes. Which is why, for me, the dust of Lent, already captures the mix of celebrating life and its possibilities and our own morality and common lot in life. It marks us and our fates as one.

You are invited to join us as we celebrate Ash Wednesday this evening at 7pm with Memorial Presbyterian. 601 24th Ave. SW, Norman, OK 73069

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Adult Education

The Rev. Peter Sawtell, a UCC minister and speaker at the Oklahoma Council of Church’s Day at the Legislature will be leading our Conversation Sunday March 5th at 9:45 a.m over a shared potluck. His topic will be on the church and eco justice. Join us for the presentation and discussion.

As the executive director of Eco-Justice Ministries since 2000, Rev. Peter Sawtell has stressed the need for Christian churches to dig deeply into their faith and ethics in this time of deepening ecological crisis. Eco-Justice Ministries has brought this message to hundreds of congregations and thousands of church leaders in the Rocky Mountain region, nationally and internationally. Peter has been a keynote speaker and workshop leader at ecumenical and denominational conferences across the United States, and was invited to southern Germany in 2014 for a 10-day speaking tour on environmental ministries. He is widely known for his weekly email commentary, Eco-Justice Notes, which addresses current issues of environmental justice from the perspective of Christian theology and pastoral ministry. Peter is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, and has been one of the denominations most prominent and persistent environmental leaders.

March 12th, 19th Just War with Tom Schott. The Christian tradition has had three major tradition as it it thinks about war. Pacifism which rejects war, the Holy War tradition which embraces it, and the majority view, Just War which tries to place limits on war. But are those limits possible? How sustainable is the Just War tradition? This will be explored.

March 26th Prophecy by Dwight Welch. Prophecy in current popular culture involves predicting the future. But in the Bible, more often than not, it serves a different purpose: one of good news for the poor and the marginalized. We’ll explore how prophecy is talked about in the Bible.

 

 

Book Club March 10th

We’re discussing chapters 8 and 9 of Listen Liberal at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!