Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

by Jeff Moles

Like many in Nashville today, I won’t have any ashes smudged on my forehead as I typically would
on Ash Wednesday. Instead, we got a dusting of snow on top of the thickly accumulated ice we already had, and most church services today were canceled. I didn’t need the ashes, though, to remind me of the problem of mortality. I simply had to walk downstairs from my office where hundreds of people suffering from homelessness were huddled, hoping to find shelter from tonight’s deadly sub-zero temperatures. But as I left Room In The Inn tonight, I also saw people of faith pulling up to our door in their vans and buses. Volunteers in thick coats were filing into the door, some having been with us multiple nights this week. I thought of the prophet Isaiah's words:

Is such the fast that I choose,
          a day to humble oneself?
     Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
          and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
     Will you call this a fast,
          a day acceptable to the LORD?
  Is not this the fast that I choose:
          to loose the bonds of injustice,
          to undo the thongs of the yoke,
     to let the oppressed go free,
          and to break every yoke?
  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
          and bring the homeless poor into your house;
     when you see the naked, to cover them,
          and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Room In The Inn’s congregations provided 650 extra shelter beds this week, with more than 150 extra beds offered tonight alone. On this Ash Wednesday night, Nashville has remembered that we are all sisters and brothers in the frailty of life. It has looked for its most vulnerable and welcomed them in. Imagine the result if we let this night of hospitality transform us into people who always care for one another and who make sure nobody is left out. Our frigid Ash Wednesday night might just look more like a warm Easter morning.

  if you offer your food to the hungry
          and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
     then your light shall rise in the darkness
          and your gloom be like the noonday.
  The LORD will guide you continually,
          and satisfy your needs in parched places,
          and make your bones strong;
     and you shall be like a watered garden,
          like a spring of water,
          whose waters never fail.
  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
          you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
     you shall be called the repairer of the breach, 

          the restorer of streets to live in.

People seeking shelter at Room In The Inn on Mon., Feb. 16

(Isaiah 58:5-12, NRSV, Revised Common Lectionary Reading for Ash Wednesday)