Speaking to the Soul: The Dentist

Ash Wednesday, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 32, 143 (morning) // 102, 130 (evening)

Amos 5:6-15

Hebrews 12:1-14

Luke 18:9-14

“It really is all about plaque.” So began an unforgettable sermon that I heard on the first Sunday of Lent many years ago. The sermon analogized this season of penance to the removal of plaque from our teeth. Like sin, plaque starts as a thin film, accumulates in cracks and occlusions, and clings to any surface. We barely detect the build-up, and yet it leads to pain and decay.

I just so happened to have scheduled a dental check-up yesterday. As I sat in the chair, tilted my head back, and exposed my sensitive gums and enamel to an array of delicate tools, this sermon flooded back to my mind. Perhaps I should always schedule dental appointments at this time of year as part of my Lenten discipline!

Our second reading today encourages us to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.” Sin, like plaque, may be clinging to us more closely than we know. Sin may have found cracks and pores in which to settle. It may have built up so slowly that we never even realized we were carrying around such a burden. And it may have initiated a barely-detectable process of decay that we can only reverse with some pain and much precision.

Today, on Ash Wednesday, we have a preventative appointment with our divine physician. He will be gentle, merciful, careful, and tender if we expose ourselves to him . . . if we approach God with our mortality and with our need for mercy.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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