Reflections on the 2nd Annual Ashes to Go

What follows is my second annual reflection on Ashes to Go.

"He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  (Mark 1:13)

I'm thinking about our own wildernesses and our temptations and our encounters with the Evil One.

On Ash Wednesday, I joined the Rev. Jason Wells and Pastor Jonathan Hopkins in distributing ashes.  We stood on a sidewalk intersection where merchants, state representatives, lawyers, street musicians, indigent men and women, shoppers and other visitors to the Capital City walk by on their way to lunch or to work or to shelter or to a contribution to get by.  We stood under a large restored clock ("It is later than you think")  and next to Zoe's (a lingerie shop which sells more than clothes.)  A street guitarist with a long gray beard stopped by and started picking songs like Fire and Rain, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Here Comes the Sun.  Stuff like that.

Perhaps because of the location, or because it was sunny and above 20 degrees for once, we had a lot more business this year than last.  In fact, people lingered around,  wanting to talk, asking questions about the meaning of the ashes, about their hopes, about their desire to receive the ashes even if it only signified that spring was coming, even about their sins.   It was kinda like church.

One man walked by Jonathan and me, and when he saw what we were doing, he quickened his pace, declaring, "Oh no. Not for me.  I worship Satan.  In fact, I AM Satan!"   

We looked at each other and said, "Well, I wouldn't be Lent without Satan showing up, right?"  It's right there in the Bible, after all. 

Later, on my walk back to Diocesan House in my cassock and purple stole, I encountered the same man.  He recognized me, and I him.  Again, he said, "Sorry man, but I'm, like, Satan, you know? Ashes wouldn't do me any damn good."  I said, "Yeah, well, you look like you could use a hot cup of coffee."  He said, "Oh, man you're not kidding."  So I got him one in the basement of the State House.  (A few legislators in the State House cafeteria recognized Satan, too).  We both had a cup and went on our way.

Like I said, it was kinda like Church.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." 

The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire