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A Dirty Face Protest!

March 4, 2017

Earlier this week I had a dirty face. That’s what someone said as he saw me coming home from church. I’d just taken an evening service and on the way back I stopped to chat. That’s when he said it. It’s good to know that I have friends willing to tell me things like that, it’s touching.

That comment though – it’s become a pattern. It happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: Each day people stopped me to let me know that I had a dirty face. If I didn’t know better I would be starting to worry about my personal hygiene! But I won’t be swayed. I’ve even managed to convince lots of others to have a dirty face with me – it’s a dirty face protest at the state of the world!

I’m not alone in my protest either. I’ve taken the dirty face protest to the schools. The protest now includes lots of the children in the primary school, and the secondary school; even some of the staff have joined me. Lots of my fellow Christians have joined in too. It’s a dirty faced protest that is truly radical because it challenges the very foundation of all that is wrong in the world. It’s a protest that starts with each individual who takes a cross on their forehead with the words, “You are dust and to dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.”

By accepting those words I’m accepting that so much of this world is hollow and empty; so much that is good has been corrupted, and most radical of all – I’m not above it, it has infected me too. This world was made good, and God’s core creation still is, but it’s messed up, it’s corrupted, it’s fallen.

When I look at the headlines I see the vastness of this corruption. I see reports of chemical weapons being used on children, of pictures of a decapitate journalist being shared by a senior politician, of a mass grave of children beside a church orphanage. I read of a new politics of hatred, and so much more; and it overwhelms me. I feel so helpless; what can I do?

The question haunted me. Then God used my church family and came to my rescue. I was offered the gift of a dirty face. I had no idea where to start with all of those big questions, but I now found that I could make a start, I could make a start with me!

I accepted a dirty face. I accepted my small part in the evil of this world, and I renewed my conviction to let the Spirit make me better. I read my Bible again, and found in Romans 5 that Jesus has made it possible for me to be put right, to be fully alive again. I can be forgiven for all that I have done to add to the wrong in the world. That is Jesus’ gift to me and to the world.

The wrong in me is washed away. The wrong in the world can go too. Now I can read those headlines of doom with renewed hope. I can do something: I can let God make me shine brightly for him. I can let Jesus make me more loving, more caring and more active in his service. I can make a difference here in my little part of Norfolk. That difference is growing with every single person that takes up the dirty face protest.

Filled with the Spirit, I can start to believe again. I can start to believe that nothing is impossible for God. I have renewed hope, and I’ve found this hope to be infectious.

The ashing on Ash Wednesday (and the other days this week to fit in with the schools), is a real gift to anyone willing to accept it. By that dirty face I accept that everything, even this life that I call mine, is nothing but dust and ashes without God. I embrace this fact with tears; and then with laughter as my Father takes my hand and leads me on once more.

  1. Agatha Finch permalink

    I so get what you mean about the abominable things we see in the media. At times I’ve felt overcome with despair and depression, but reading your words today encourages me that we can each play a part in the coming of God’s kingdom. I pray that I will shine brightly for Him too. Thank you!

  2. jean black permalink

    Very thought provoking

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