Tune Town: I'm waking up this morning in Nashville, Tennessee. My publisher flew me in yesterday to do some author-ish stuff for a couple of days. Tom Albin, Dean of the Upper Room Chapel, thought it might be a fine idea to have me speak at the Ash Wednesday service.
It's always a thrill and a privilege to be asked to bring a few words of encouragement. I seldom feel like I'm teaching anything new so much as putting words to unspoken impulses of heart and spirit, yearnings that are simply looking to find their voice.
And there are so many voices.
So this morning I'm reading from Christ's conversation with Pilate in John 18. "But as it is," Jesus said, "My kingdom is not from here...." It's a phrase Jesus uses more than once during his ministry. "My kingdom is not from here..."
But as it is - Jesus said - my kingdom is not from here
The point of an Ash Wednesday observance is to enter into the spirit of Christ's cryptic observation. There's something about this journey through Lent that's likely to bring out the, "not from around these parts" assessment from those we might run into. In fact, it should.
Some of you will go through the day with ashes on your forehead or the back of your hand. It can be a little unsettling. But that's the idea. Ash Wednesday means something.
But what? For me, and this year especially, Ash Wednesday is a call from God to make a shift from "Business as usual" and to experiment more deliberately with Kingdom Life.
What's the worst that could happen? Oh, people might wonder if we're "from around here." Maybe - if we begin to live more deliberately as Kingdom people - we'll be tagged as "different" or "weird."
But you know what? The alternative is looking exactly like we belong in a culture that is teetering on the brink of collapse due to several decades of greed and corruption....
So it would bother you to act in a way that - instead - identified you with Jesus? "But as it is, my Kingdom is not from here."
Not from around here? Good call, Jesus...