Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Today we enter the season of Lent.  We are reminded by Jesus “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  There is temptation to pound our chests, bewail our many sins, and go about with a frown, recognizing what horrible sinners we are.  

Paul challenges us: We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  This season is one in which we may intentionally allow ourselves to be reconciled.  In fact this season calls for it, demands it.  

Shortly you will be invited into a Holy Lent.  The invitation is one of self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God's holy Word. It is an invitation to make a right beginning of repentance, and the opportunity to kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer in humility.  It is a chance for new beginnings.

As we step into Lent, remember the words of Jesus.  This is not a time of self flagellation or the time to beat yourself up.  It is instead an opportunity to remove those bricks we have placed between ourselves and God.  It is a time to slowly take down the wall that separates us from God.  It is a time to make the space to meet God.  How each of us does this will differ and that is good.  

Some of us need to use this time to reflect back on those things that have placed those bricks in the way.  Others of us need this time to develop and deepen our spiritual disciplines.  Others may need a time of refreshment and study.  What we all need is the chance to grow in our relationship with Christ, to reflect on the journey to the cross, and to discover anew how to live into our baptismal covenant as individuals and as a community.  

There is no one way to experience a holy Lent, yet there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.  May this Lent be a time which allows you to discover anew the precious joy that comes in loving and serving Christ.  May it be a time in which you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.  May you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.  May you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.  May you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself. May you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.  And as you do these things, may you remember our Lord’s teaching to meet our Father in secret.  Not observing Lent outwardly, but inwardly as you grow into the call God alone has for you.  

Merciful, loving God, we bring to you the ashes of our burned-out hopes and illusions of self-sufficiency. We are eager to lean deeply into your presence and relax into your compassionate arms. In this moment we offer all that we are and have failed to be, for your forgiving, transforming work within and among us. As the mark of the cross is made on our foreheads, we freely give our whole selves back to you in gratitude and love. We pray this empowered by your grace.  (Copyright General Board of Discipleship. Used by permission.)


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