02 March 2006

Ash Wednesday

I was at church last night for Ash Wednesday (Ascher Mittwoch). As in years past, we got ashes on our foreheads. I've always heard this described as a death to self. I've never been into the 'Jesus suffered so I must too' way of thinking. (It's a bit like how some pushed seeing The Passion of the Christ. 'Why shouldn't you be able to sit through this horribly violent movie? Jesus died for you. It's the least you can do.' I don't get that.) But last night the 'death to self' finally started making sense.

My pastor, an awesome preacher, talked about the danger of Lent. It's a time of introspection but he warned against focusing only on ourselves. Rather, it's a time to reflect on what is at the center of our lives. If it is God, rather than our selves, it restores us to right relationships with ourselves and others. It sends us out to serve in the world God loves, not into our isolated Christian enclaves. This explanation of 'death to self'' makes sense to me. Death to self absorption and placing my self, my needs and my wants above others'.

This reminds reminds me of something from a world religions class. One of the tenets of Hinduism (I think, or Buddhism -- my apologies to Hindus and Buddhists if I get this wrong) is that the closer you get to the divine, the closer you get to other people. That is, the things that separate us from one another seem less important.

It's amazing what you can learn about your own faith by studying another. I know some people who are leery are about learning about other faiths -- as if other religions are spreadable diseases. Just because you don't all believe the same thing, doesn't mean that you can't work together to make the world a better place. For example, true Christianity and Islam are peaceful religions. Not like you'd know it these days. Fundamentalism is so often the loudest, as well as meanest, voice.

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