Thursday, March 10, 2011
Living in a Plastic World
What is Lent about? Honesty. What is the nature of our world? Plastic -- Fake. Lent is about the terrible truth that our plastic world refuses to admit. We are dust -- we came from dust and we return to dust. And we might add, in between the dust from which we came and the dust to which we return, there is more dust.... more ashes. To put it another way, it is not all about you. You are dust. It is all about Him who gives life even to dust (the cross that the ashes mark).
Somebody once said that all publicity is good publicity. Charlie Sheen must have been listening. He is on every talk show, he calls into to countless radio shows, he has been interviewed in print, and he seems intent on giving us his every opinion on every subject. We may laugh at him or wag our heads wondering what in the world he is on, but he is the unvarnished and raw part of every one of us. It is just that the rest of us have learned to hide or soften this selfish core and appear less plastic, less fake.
Lent is a season of self-awareness -- not the kind that happens in an office, on a couch, with a therapist but the kind that begins with ashes and dust. Our world is plastic -- from the plastic surgery that fixes everything that we think is wrong with us (but cannot fix death) to the plastic that finances our indulgence (with the appearance of riches) to the plastic that sides our homes (trying to look like the wood it is not). It all starts on Ash Wednesday. There the people of God come clean and admit this most distasteful truth. We lament this truth. We confess this truth. We repent of all the lies and the plastic world that covers up or deceives and stand before the Lord as the dust we truly are. And the miracle of it all is that God does not turn away from us but comes to us -- in all our weakness and mortality, in all our flaws and failings, in our sin and death. He comes to us not with the pointy finger of an "I told you so" or the righteous indignation that rejects us sinners. No, He comes to us with the blood of forgiveness that washes white... with the true righteousness of Christ to cover up the filthy rags of our own goodness and holiness... with the grace that visits the unworthy and the undeserving with gifts for which we dare not ask and are too good for which to hope.
Sadly, too few churches are telling the truth on Ash Wednesday or throughout Lent. Instead, we have turned even this season of honest appraisal into another forty days about ME. Lent is like a "ME" filter -- it strips away the plastic veneer on our lives to expose the truth. And you know what Jesus said about the truth -- it will set you free.