Early this morning, I read:
Remember finally, that the ashes on your forehead are created from burnt palms...New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die. -Richard Rohr
Tony and I ventured into Richmond for a noontime service; I Googled and Redemption Hill at The 400 seemed close enough and at the right time, so we drove to the south side of Richmond and made our way into a beautiful old building, held up by huge, four-story white columns, snug in an old, familiar neighborhood of homes and sidewalks and leftover piles of greying snow.
It was a church, to the bones; black and white checkered linoleum in the slightly off-center landing, creaky stairs with well-worn balustrades, pews and stained glass and a enormous ceiling. It was a beautiful room, with space to breathe and headroom for the breath of heaven.
We settled in and heard music, simple and without amplification. A soprano sax, a banjo. A cello and acoustic guitar, some sort of odd miniature keyboard thing and a few voices.
Psalms were sung; old folk tunes and a hymn with familiar words and a strange melody. Surrounded by strangers, I felt oddly comfortable in the spirit of grace.
The pastor spoke of seasons; Advent and Lent and the cyclical center of the church calendar that brings us around, year after year, to familiar days and times. He pointed out that we need to be reminded, of more than the changing weather and the places we've been. We need reminding that we rise from redemption for cleansing and renewal, only to sink back down in some other muck and find ourselves in need of redemption again. It is not the past, bogging us down and clutching us to the breast of regrets and recriminations; it is simply our humanity.
We are human. We fight and fail and grow a little bit more like Jesus. And thus requires the constancy of grace.
In redemption, we are reminded of our need for a savior, of the great promise that He will never leave us or forsake us because we are so ridiculous in our efforts to arrive and succeed and overcome and be brilliant.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my many transgressions, wash away all my iniquities, cleanse me from my sin...create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
We gathered at my home church tonight for small group studies, and we sang before we sat down. Surrounded by friends, I felt the glory of grace; known stories, prayed-for battles, broken hearts mending.
You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things of of the dust
You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us
I know this to be true; I saw and felt and heard it all around me, the beautiful things that God is making out of our brokenness. Out of our adultery. Our pride. Our addictions. Our fears. Our anxiety. Our depression. Our raw, rank places, placed before one another and before the One who works in and through us to act according to His good purpose.
You make me new, you are making me new
It is a new beginning for me, one that is offered daily, but most poignantly and passionately at the beginning of this Lenten season. It is a step forward in a journey of expectancy; for if God does not surprise me in these days, I fear my cynicism is rooted far too deep.
But nothing is impossible for God.
I am a sinner - if it's not one thing, it's another
Caught up in words, tangled in lies
You are a Savior, and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful
Making us new.
All photos taken at Redemption Hill.