Ash Wednesday 2014 by Barbara Zeman

Homily Date

We begin Lent in the name of God … our creator, redeemer and life giving Spirit.  As we come together I ask you to reflect on what is in a name.  Some of the many names we use to reference the Divine are Yhwh, Divine Source, Holy Spirit, The Way, the Truth, The Life, Emanuel, God with us.


When I was first given the task of reflecting on a chapter in Tich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Together we are one”, I was overwhelmed by the thought of it.  How do I impart to this community the concept of oneness … a concept that, while so simple … so sublime, is at the same time, inexplicable? How do I even ask the question – what is your true name?  Tich Naht Hanh once said “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”


I have personally been pondering that statement for 30 plus years.


Who are we really?  What is our true name? As the Beatles song goes … I am you and you are me and we are all together.  I don’t know what the bards of my time were smoking or what hallucinogens they were on but they touched on Eastern mysticism and came to the realization that we are all connected.  In 1974, even, Gracie Slick, and the Starship sang about it. I've heard circles moving right through corners
 and they don't even know they've been around and around and around before. Ringing, ringing against each other on a singing chain like a flying magnet hyper drive has never seen any reason to remain the same.


It is the difference between East and West, between Hierarchical knowledge and relational knowledge.  It is the coming together and rending apart a knowingness that tugs at the very core of our being.  Is it thinking in circles rather than in a straight line?  Or, perhaps, in its simplicity, it is just becoming aware of the truth that Jesus imparted to us on the cross? “Abba, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” The only way home is surrender.


Thay, as Tich Naht Hanh is known, says it is possible to be at peace if we pierce through our false reality, which is based on the idea of life and death, to touch the ultimate dimension in Buddhist thinking, in which energy cannot be created or destroyed.  If this is so, Jesus energy was not destroyed on the cross, rather, it is transformed for all to see.

When we recognizie the inter-connectedness of all life, we can move beyond the idea that we are separate selves and expand our compassion and love for ourselves and for those who we call ‘other’.

In our diversity, we find unity.


 When I was young, I just knew what I knew.  I didn’t know why or how. Over the years, I have written poems about it. One of them comes from my 23 ‘year old’ self.


Truth and all its far out schemes hangs naked on the rails of the crib blowing bubbles at the threshold of a dream.


Another poem comes from the me of today.


There is a door, a door that leads no one knows where, a door that deacons come … Step over my threshold. Enter into the nothingness that stir the void. Touch the space that hldes the Divine. Open to the possibilities that make all one.  Bless creation with newfound wholeness.  The Divine does knock and the door we open.  What lies beyond? No one can say.  What lies within? The spark that lights the way.


‘Return to me … with all your heart.’ the Old Testament reading for today says. It later goes on to ask, ‘Who knows if God will turn and relent?’ I ask.  ‘Why wouldn’t our Divine Creator have compassion on us and help us to awaken to the awareness that we are all one?’  We cannot be separated from our source. Jesus knew this. He was sent by God to awaken us.  In fact, he gave his life to show us that, it isn’t about this world … this human life. His transformation manifest at Gethsemeni as he surrendered his humanity to the will of the Divine source, knowing that he would ultimately have to die to be reborn in God’s divine embrace.


When we understand that we are more than our physical bodies, that we didn't come from nothingness and will not disappear into nothingness, we are liberated from fear. Tich Naht Hanh says, “Fearlessness is not only possible but the ultimate joy.”



No!  It isn’t about duality … black vs white, good vs bad, man vs woman, life vs death but, it is rather about the black and white, the good and bad, the man and woman, in each and every one of us that bring a triumph over death … the surrender or our ego, our self.  When we come to a realization that we have always been and will always be, we will discover our true name.  We will be transformed.  And that name is Holy, indeed.