March 1, 2021

We are in Lent which may or not be your favorite time of the year. For me, it is a time between Winter and Spring; where the weather changes drastically in the south. Like here in Birmingham, the week when Lent began, we had snow and the next week we were in T shirts basking in the sun. It is also a time of reflection of all that God has done for us and how God is calling us.

Since Shepherd of the Hills began its outreach through Ashes to Go, Lent has taken on a new meaning for me. Our outreach is powerful, reaching people in the gut. Sometimes the vulnerability that people share during our time together shows just how much pain and hurt there is in the world and the need to know that people are loved and valued.

It is an honor and privilege to participate in Ashes to Go and the encounters change all who take part. This year was no different. With the pandemic, we did not do a physical imposition of ashes which changed the use of all of our senses including touch as we considered the beauty of our creation and our bodies as well the frailty. With our current reality of the pandemic, the words of “from dust you were made and to dust you shall return” hits a little closer, a little deeper as many of us mourn the losses of friends or family members.

We didn’t have as many people come this year, however, our outreach is not about the numbers. It’s about delivering the good news of God’s love to our neighbors. More community members come than our family of faith members and that is a good thing. We have people who come every year and thank us for being available. Sometimes people say that they are not members and can they still get ashes – absolutely, available to all no matter what. We have people who show up and say they have no idea why they are there – and I know that the Spirit nudged them and they need to be here.

No matter why they show up, when we offer to pray with them, it is truly holy ground. It is time to take off your shoes and stand before God asking for God’s love to be poured out and to remind people of God’s promise to never ever abandon us, no matter what. It is truly a grace filled moment.

My friends, we are called to share the good news of God’s love and God’s faithfulness. We get to respond to the grace and love that God abundantly gives us. This Lent and always, we know that God journeys with us and we get to tell others about it. What a gift and what a joy it is that God chooses to work through people. My friends, thank you for loving God and reaching out and loving our neighbors.

Pr. Carolyn