Today, during our Ash Wednesday services, I’ll be saying these words as I impose the ashes on my parishioners’ forehead. Over and over again, these words will fall out of my mouth, and though the people whom I speak it to may only hear it once, for me, it will be my mantra.
This morning as I sat down to write this, and began my 40 days of blogging (not counting Sundays, because even pastors need some Sabbath), I turned on my Spotify to the classical radio, and what did I hear but this song.
This song is a song I always enjoyed hearing growing up. My mom is a big fan of Aaron Copeland, and every time she popped in her Copeland CD into the stereo, the first song was always this fanfare. It’s called “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and I never quite understood what that meant when I was younger. What did it mean for the Common Man to have a fanfare? Fanfares are for kings and gallant knights, important emissaries and Easter Sunday. Fanfares are not made for the common people.
As I grew, I understood more of why it was called that. Yes it’s a fanfare, and there is nobility in it, but there’s something about it that sets it apart from other fanfares. It builds, but it never explodes. It’s commanding, but it’s not overwhelming. There’s a touch of musical humility in the song, and that makes it appropriate for the common person.
As the music played again, the words from Joel 2:15-17 rang in my ears clear:
15 Blow the horn in Zion;
demand a fast;
request a special assembly.
16 Gather the people;
prepare a holy meeting;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the groom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep.
Blow the trumpet, and call everyone. Highborn and low. Man, woman, and child. Priest and peasant, bride and groom. Everyone sharing in humanity, hear this call. It is a call to repentance, a reminder of our common mortality.
Copeland may have written the Fanfare for the Common Man, but for we Christians, Ash Wednesday serves as a Fanfare for the Common Sinner. All of us are frail, broken, and ultimately, mortal. In the face of God, we stand in need of healing.
This season of Lent, let’s remember always why we repent, why we give our hearts back to God. We all share in humanity, and are all part of a common kind. We each share in the need to be healed. Today starts that journey.
From ashes we come, and to ashes we shall return.
Repent, and believe the Gospel.