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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

Yesterday, on the day most of the world's church begins the season of Lent with a day of repentance called Ash Wednesday, the Masso family said their public goodbye to their Papa Jon.  We gathered in the Daystar University auditorium where he was a professor of physics and instrumental in building a science faculty, the Masso family joined by most of our Serge team from Nairobi and Kijabe, a classical choral society that Jon sang with, dozens of former street boys enfolded into the Ahadi home through the senior Massos' ministry, and a few hundred colleagues and students from the university.  There were speeches, tributes, flowers, music, and memories.  As sad as it was to see the casket containing a soon-to-be-ashes body, the day was also a tribute to a quiet man of integrity who steadily taught and encouraged and believed across continents in a way that impacted untold numbers of lives.  I found it encouraging to ponder the fact that the Massos' Kenya phase of life began when they were just a bit older than we are now.  There are still a couple of good decades ahead, I hope.  And encouraging to see the cross-cultural mourning uniting us, and the way God orchestrated this past year of celebrations and goodbyes for Jon.  There was a glimpse of the eternal that permeated the review of the last 75 years of temporal, but a death and a memorial service ground us solidly in earth.  Appropriately so, for the day.  The ashes of Ash Wednesday are to remind us that we are made of dust and to dust we shall return.  While that may sound depressing, in the context of mourning and of the struggle of this life, it is actually a humble relief.  All suffering in this world comes to an end.  The Maker knows our feeble frames.

The day's Scripture included the phrase "rend your hearts and not your garments" (Joel 2).  Serge's tagline is "grace at the fray", using the sewing metaphor that a serge stitch is one that re-ravels or binds up the disintegrating edge, and that's what we're up to in the world's places of sorrow.  That calls to mind the image of a rent, or frayed garment. So serging is the opposite of rending; yet an internal rending may need to precede the serging of our souls.  We rend our hearts by an honest look at our motives, our propensity to promote our selves and use other people for our own ends, our lukewarm love, our critical spirits.  But that rending is good news, because then the frayed edges of our souls can be bound with a beautiful stitch, united to a tapestry of God's making all things new.

Rending garments was also a sign of grief, one that our culture should re-consider.  For the Masso kids, there is no outward sign for their friends and classmates to know the grief going on deep in their hearts this week.  Grief inwardly rips our tidy world into little shreds.  But more good news:  that's OK, a precursor to a new design.  Grace at work again, in grief as well as in repentance, acknowledging all that is not right in the process of making it all right again.

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