Today is Ash Wednesday, Lent begins. Our readings are once again, very clear; this is not the first or the last time we will hear these words in our lives.
Maybe we can walk together this Lent, and help each other to stay on the path? Let’s explore that through one point from each element of today’s Scriptures.
From the Book of Joel:
“Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.”
Return. Whole heart. Heart, not garments. Can we, a people who live in a culture focused so intensely on the exterior, truly do the interior work of God? We are faced with a challenge because we receive many mixed messages, influencing the kind of lives we choose to live. Even if we are focused on God, many of us avoid fasting, weeping, and mourning. Maybe we can ask ourselves these questions to guide our Lenten journey, as we choose to live differently – even if only for these 40 days.
- What does fasting mean to us? Do we get caught up in fasting from food or Facebook, but forget to fast from inner elements of life, such as busyness, desire for productivity, a drive for success? Or from simply trying to be “more holy.” (Whatever that means!)
- How do we “rend our hearts?” Are we willing to tear open our hearts in order that we might truly change? Or better yet, allowing God into our open hearts so that God may change us?
From Psalm 51:
“A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me”
- Here we are with hearts again. What does it mean to have a clean heart? Where does our own willingness emerge? Or lack of it?
- What would it mean to have the Holy Spirit taken away?
From 2 Corinthians:
“Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.”
- Can we experience God’s invitation in every moment?
- How can we enter into the present moment as the acceptable time? Which means every moment!
- Are we afraid of the door closing, or an offer with an “expiration date?”
From the Gospel of Matthew:
“And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
- With this sentiment appearing three times in the Gospel, how do we understand our relationship with God?
- Are we fearful or hopeful of how we will be repaid? Do we think of it at all?
These are just a few questions that I will be praying with as we begin Lent. It is easy to get caught up in our own perceptions, but perhaps we can pray for one another to live these and other questions, and to trust God to lead us on this Lenten journey. And maybe that is the key to moving ahead – consider this a journey. There are “luggage limits” if we pay attention, there is wisdom to not making emotional pack mules of ourselves. Oh how easy to say, how hard to do. I can’t do this alone, I need God and I need you.
Shall we go? Shall we go together with Jesus? The desert beckons, let us set forth!