This served as my invitation to the congregation before the imposition of ashes this evening. It's roughly paraphrased, as I did it sans notes. Maybe there's hope yet for me to work off manuscript. Well anyway, here it is:
"A bumpersticker that has become very popular the past few years has the American flag as a backdrop with the words 'The Power of Pride' laden over top. I think that the people who produced this sticker have underestimated the significance of this simple phrase.
"There is certainly power in pride. Some of it is good. Pride can produce loyalty and it can produce the strength that one may need to get through difficult times. But pride has other power as well. Pride can produce other things within us that are more harmful and destructive, two of which we remember tonight.
"The first thing that pride's power can overshadow is our sense of mortality, our sense of finitude. Pride can become so built up that we begin to believe we're invincible. We deny our humanity. We run from death. We try to escape it through material possessions or through so-called anti-aging techniques. Pride can help us fool ourselves into thinking we can in turn fool death.
"The second thing that pride's power can overshadow is our sense of accountability, toward one another and toward God. Pride can cause us to deny that we are responsible for our actions, as we try to justify everything we do that hurts others; that goes against God's call to us. Pride helps us deny that we can be wrong.
"Tonight we put off our pride. We confess our sins and we admit to ourselves and one another that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Let us put off our pride as we journey toward the cross. Let us humble ourselves before God."
I think it was longer and maybe a little more rambling than that, but this was the gist.