Leader: The season of Lent calls us to journey along the edge, to anticipate that final trip to Jerusalem.
Group response: Lent call us to the cutting edge, when the wheat falls to the ground and new life comes forth.
Leader: Lent not only calls us to give up something, but also invites us to participate in the mystery of God-with-us.
Group response: By your grace, call us from grief into gladness, despair into hope, estrangement into right relations with each other and with earth.
The Lenten season is traditionally thought to be a time where we are reminded of Jesus’ life and death. It is a time of self-examination and penance. In many traditions it is a time when one thinks about what one can do without. You are being invited to begin this season of Lent in a new way, while maintaining the traditional themes.
We may begin by reflecting on our unity with all that is, by remembering that each of us is part of an immense and continuous creation, a creation which entails the entire universe. Although we humans are a vital part of this creation, we are by no means the center. Yet we know that all too often we imagine and act as if we were the center—as if everything were here for us, for us to use for our own purposes, even to use up.
And yet in our hearts we know that we live in and through a complex set of relationships, and that it is our responsibility, as it has been the responsibility of each generations that preceded ours, to bequeath a healthy, fruitful, and beautiful world to all who shall follow.
What does this understanding of connection and responsibility have to do with Lent?
–If we are open to allowing God to expose the places in our hearts that suffer from the illusion that we are separate and apart from creation,
–If we are willing to allow God to bring into the light those places where change is needed,
THEN this is the real work of Lent.
The real work of Lent is to renew our sense of connection, thus restoring our dignity and calling us back to our selves, to a place where we acknowledge the invitation to choose life and our responsibility to act co-creatively with God.
Divide the circle into three groups of readers for this reading on our cosmological origins.
Group 1: In the beginning, the energy of silence rested over an infinite horizon of pure nothingness.
Group 2: The silence lasted for billions of years, stretching across eons that the human mind cannot even remotely comprehend.
Groups 3: Out of the silence arose the first ripples of sound, vibrations of pure energy that ruptured the tranquil stillness as a single point of raw potential, bearing all matter, all dimension, all energy, and all time: exploding like a massive fireball.
All: It was the greatest explosion of all time!
Group 1: An eruption of infinite energy danced into being. It had a wild and joyful freedom about it, and like a dance it was richly endowed with coherence, elegance, and creativity.
Group 2: The universe continued to expand and cool until the first atoms came into being. The force of gravity joined the cosmic dance; atoms clustered into primordial galaxies.
Group 3: Giant clouds of hydrogen and helium gases gathered into condensed masses, giving birth to stars!
Group 1: Generations of stars were born and died, born and died, and then our own star system, the solar system, was formed from a huge cloud of interstellar dust, enriched by the gifts of all those ancestral stars.
Group 2: Planet Earth condensed out of a cloud that was rich in a diversity of elements. Each atom of carbon, oxygen, silicon, calcium, and sodium had been given during the explosive death of ancient stars. These elements, this stuff of stars, included all the chemical elements necessary for the evolution of carbon-based life.
Group 3: With the appearance of the first bacteria, the cosmic dance reached a more complex level of integration.
Group 1: Molecules clustered together to form living cells!
Group 2: Later came the algae, and then fishes began to inhabit the waters!
Group 3: Thence the journey of life on land and in the sky. Insects, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals: all flourished and diversified and elaborated the themes of life. And now it is our time, too.
All: This is our story.
Group 1: The story of our beginning, our cosmology.
Group 2: Humans were invited to care for the earth…
Group 3: But often we tried to conquer and subdue it.
All: The burden is ours to own and bear.
Group 1: And so we will begin our Lenten Journey this Ash Wednesday.
Group 2: with an open heart asking the Creator
Group 3: to show us how to take the daily things of life and see them as sacred.
Group 1: May God guide us as we perform simple acts of love and prayer,
Group 2: and real works of reform and renewal.
Group 3: Let us love deeply the earth which gives us air to breathe, water to drink, and food to sustain us.
Group 1: May we remember that life is begotten from stardust, radiant in light and heat.
Group 2: We are all one—all of creation, all that now live, all that have ever lived.
Group 3: Remember we are stardust, and to stardust we return.
Group 1: Remember we are connected and to connection we return.
Group 2: Remember we are part of the great mystery.
All: Remember we are stardust and to stardust we return.
Ash Wednesday begins a journey of turning back toward God. It is a day when we look at how self-centered our lives have become, when we acknowledge that we often fall short of what we want to be. It is a day when we call all of our angers, hatred, and jealousies out from their dark corners and embrace them as part of us. Lent is also a season of healing. We open up our lives so that we may see into the depths of our souls. It is a time of confession. “Stardust” is not only a reminder of our need for forgiveness but also a reminder of our connection with earth and how we can be an instrument of healing.
Turn to the person next to you and place glitter on their foreheads, saying
Remember you are stardust, and to stardust you shall return.
Continue around the circle until all have received the stardust.
Receiving the Star:
Place a star attached to a ribbon around the neck of the person next to you, saying
Remember you are a star and part of the Mystery.
(Taken from The Great Story, Plymouth Congregational Church)