Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a special day – a day to remember the frailty of life and our dependence upon God. There is perhaps no day that might be more important for me as a chaplain amidst a sports environment and the people and community that we serve.
Denver is on a high right now (no, not that kind of high) – with the Denver Broncos winning SuperBowl 50. People are proud. Fans, players, coaches, executives – all basking in the glory of winning. Calls for Von Miller to be a presidential candidate! All in good fun. Some feel invincible. The “d” word has been bandied about – d, as in “dynasty.” To some, we feel unstoppable, untouchable. When asked if we will return next year (to the SuperBowl) the optimism is high.
But the truth is that we prop up veneers and facades that we can comfortably hide behind. For the Denver Broncos, will they continue to put faith in an aging quarterback? For you and me, will we continue to be faithful to our spouse – even if our love has grown cold and we feel distant? We will continue to worship at the local church – fought with its hypocrisy and failures? Will we continue plugging along at this aimless journey – where winners and champion change every year and our technology is out of date even before we’ve learned to use it?
Ash Wednesday is the coming-back-to-earth day. For the Christian, it is that time to realize just how needy and dependent we are. We can’t go very long with out arguing or fighting. We long for the sweet things of life – sugar as well as comfortability. We are horrible at keeping faith. We abandon God because He first abandoned us. For the Mardi Gras reveler, Ash Wednesday is the detestable fast that we binged against the night before. Sex. Sugar. Vice. Let’s sin much so that we can wake up the next day and start getting right with God – maybe.
Ash Wednesday reminds me that I am marked – my life span is short, I bear the mark of Cain. I need God – even though I practice and fill that need with so many other and different (and sometimes wonderful things) but in vain.
For the athlete, they face retirement at a young age. They lose their identity that they have devoted their entire life to practicing and training for. They ascend the heights and they fall as far as they have ascended. They need Ash Wednesday – to constantly remind them of their dependence and to maintain humility.
For the coach, they are always in flux, always in transition. “We’re in a rebuilding year.” “We’ve won it all – now we’ve got to do it again (and find a way to pay everyone what they want).” “Win at all costs.” “Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” Do well – or your job is on the line. Do well – and don’t get political. Do well – and if we like you we might keep you around. They need Ash Wednesday – to give them hope that the transient life that they live is a metaphor that Christ had to live and that we all must come to grips with (because this life on earth is temporary any way and full of trouble).
For the executive, it’s always about the bottom line. How do you do more with less? How do you get the most out of what you have? And what if you have little or nothing? They need Ash Wednesday – to remind themselves that they are people and that they are stewarding more than assets, they steward people and resources. They need Ash Wednesday – to remind them that sometimes repentance has a place even in the business world for wrongs done and for things that are left undone.
And Rev’s, we need Ash Wednesday, too. We are sinful, wretched creatures – not any better or closer to God. We need to remember to serve with humility. We need to remember that it’s not up to us. We are under the call to serve – on assignment from God to representatively work toward healing the wayward and loving freely our constituency, our community.
The mark of ash that I wear on my forehead today reminds me of these things and helps me to give thanks to God. I pray that it does for you, too.
Rev. Brad Kenney