Ash Wednesday

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All prayers should be used with printed credit to enfleshed unless otherwise noted.

1 – 

we come from the earth,
and to the earth we will return.
a place, holy and dark,
where divinity knits the web of life,
queering beginnings and endings and beginnings.

more of a sacred integration
than a divine abduction,
this is a gradual evolution,
moving with respect for the way a life lingers.

eventually and with time,
destruction is made fodder for seeds.
death, a nutrient for life.
decay, a slow unfolding of future’s potential.

it’s not without its complications –
this claim of eternal composting –
for one thing,
it smells wretched.
but it is honest.
and we need more of that.

and anyway, behold the gardens,
and ponder ocean floors.
consider the harvests on which we feast
and the verdant tables set before wild things.

to be born again like that.

Isn’t that god?
isn’t that redemption?
isn’t that a miracle?
isn’t that enough?

– Rev. M Barclay

2- 

my old dog’s ashes sit in a jar by the fireplace
and remnants of my beloved friend—impossibly dead—have been offered me, too

(i do not let go easily
and that’s my offering, and curse)

when i die, i can imagine nothing more gruesome
than being pumped with preservatives
and left toxic in satin

fling me into the wind
the water, the soil
may mycelium find me, repurpose and resurrect me
into something like eternal life

ashes to ashes to earth to the air
tuck me in treasured places, if you’d like
and leave bits of me in the places where i’ve gone to pray and felt free—
delores park, and the rose garden where for four years i watched the sun set each night over the bay,
spring park and grey’s lake and prospect park too, and now hickory hill
and of course the mountains that gave place to my birth, and the carolina coastline where i learned to love dark depths as divine
pieces of me are already scattered
flung far and wide

most of the universe is dark matter
dark energy, too
which means most of what holds us is
holy mystery
unknown, unnamed, untamed

we become holy and whole
by holding each other through
holding space for the losses
the griefs, we can barely bear

this year, my ashes come from last night’s fire
and rather than wear them on my forehead
they sit cupped in a bowl
which sits cupped in my hands
which are cupped to receive
something like healing, or wisdom, or breath

ashes and soil and tulsi and salt
flame burning, too
and a tiny baby succulent
because life
takes infinite fractal forms
and healing is something like transforming
pain into magic

this season, may we remember
we remember who we are
when we move with and for each other

a murmuration of starlings
a trembling of finches
an exhumation of skylarks
a wisdom of owls

a conspiration of humans
we need each other, urgently

there are so many songs waiting to be sung
so many dreams to be dreamt

and love letters waiting to become

– Rev. Anna Blaedel

3

When the garden was lush,
still brimming with life and beauty,
rich in nutrients and possibility,
God gathered the soil of the earth,
and breathed us into life.

Not a man – an Adamah.
Earth creature.
A being of the soil.
First a lonely one.
Then love called for two,
differentiated and distinct,
but also 
flesh of my flesh,
bone of my bone.
Both, soil of the earth,
Kin to all that lives.
Created very good, indeed.

From dust we were created,
And to dust we will return.

This refrain calls us back to our gritty and humble beginnings.
It jolts us awake by reminding us of death.
The inevitable returning home.

When the time comes,
the garden, the body of the earth that birthed us,
will welcome us back like the forgiveness of God,
embracing us in ways that will transform even the most cruel among us
into sources of nourishment for lives to come.

It doesn’t make sense, this grace.
For generations, some have worked feverishly to sever us from our family tree,
hacking over and over at the roots of finitude and flesh,
destroying everything and everyone that tells the story
of who we really are –
vulnerable and precarious creatures,
hungry for relationship,
starved in isolation,
not set above our earthly kin,
but set within a delicate web of interconnection.
So much has been destroyed 
betraying this origin story.

From dust we were created,
and to dust we will return.
But we don’t have to wait.

We cannot evade death,
but we can choose life
in these fleeting precious days.
We can mend,
we can protect,
we can repent,
we can return.

If we just pay attention,
to our bodies,
each other,
the birds 
and the air,
we can recognize the holy groans
of the earth calling us home.

– Rev. M Barclay

4

It’s not at all about the need to think of ourselves as awful.
For many of us, that already comes too easy.
If you don’t need a smear across your forehead
because you wear it on your heart every day
hear these words:
You are not awful.
God doesn’t think you’re awful.
You were not created awful.
There’s nothing divine that is born from believing you are awful.
If this is hard for you to accept, to believe, to hold deeply in your smeared heart,
spend some time with that this season.
You have been lied to.
Heal.
Resist.
Unlearn those prayers that make you small.
Come alive again before you remember death.
But then, when you do,
when you remember you are good,
don’t settle for believing the journey is complete.
It was never only yours to begin with.
Let it lead you to questions of us:
Why do we,
so good,
turn on each other?
Why do we,
so good,
allow for evil to flourish
through white supremacy
or patriarchy
or poverty
or queer and transphobia?
Created good.
Created good.
Created good.
But collectively invested in evil.
In its stories.
In its profits.
In its familiar.
To re-member
is a collective occasion.
A communal acknowledgment
of the choices before us.
Let the remember-ing
that we are dust
and to dust we will return
be a reckoning with our inseparable lives and deaths
be an apology for all we have chosen instead of each other
be a grounding in the promise
that we come from holy soil.
Holy dirt.
Holy dust.
Created good.
In need of tending.
Rich with potential for beauty.
Hungry for nutrients.
Wild and unruly.
Vulnerable.
The dust births new life.
The dust receives the dead.
In the dust we find each other
today
or eventually.

– Rev. M Barclay

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