Friday, June 3, 2011

Ashes and Diamonds: Another Reason to Be Rather Fond of the Episcopal Church (Apr 2011)

A Special Lenten Guest Post by The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith

As we all learned in our high school science class, life cannot exist without carbon. All life, from the lowest paramecium to the largest blue whale are dependent on this essential element — number 6 on the periodic table and the fourth most common element in the universe. We are all carbon-based.

An interesting element, this carbon - we usually think of it as black and crumbly, like charcoal, soot, or black smoke coming from a chimney or the graphite in our pencils, even though there is far more of it in the air as invisible carbon dioxide. But we should also not forget that this same element, which looks so dark and dirty, is also the same element that makes up the most beautiful and strongest thing we know — diamonds. Carbon is something we associate with death and decay, but it is also the source of strength, brilliance, and fire.

It is a juxtaposition we all know well.

St Paul says..."For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing...”  And Paul asks what we ask — "Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

So we see carbon-based life is destined for more than ashes, more than the grave. The ashes we wear in this solemn season remind us to await the power of God who desires more than anything else to turn our carbon, our ashes, into diamonds.

The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith is the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona.

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