Ash Wednesday

Ash_WednesdayToday 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.

  1. 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!)
  2. 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”

  1. 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?
  2. 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.”

  1. Can we experience God’s invitation in every moment?
  2. How can we enter into the present moment as the acceptable time? Which means every moment!
  3. 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.”

  1. With this sentiment appearing three times in the Gospel, how do we understand our relationship with God?
  2. 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!

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Ash Wednesday, one week later – a guest post by Susan Grunder

shutterstock253202413Ash Wednesday was one week ago. How is it going? Did you start out Lent with the best of intentions?

Last Sunday we heard about God’s covenant with us. In the Psalm, we cry out to the Lord to teach us his paths. To remember us. In the Gospel, we see Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert. Jesus doesn’t lead the Spirit into the desert. The Spirit drives him. Where is the Spirit driving us this Lent?

800px-The_Game_of_LentSometimes we look at Lent as a chance to reboot our New Year’s Resolutions. We just change the names to fit the traditional “Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.” We might call it fasting, but, let’s be honest, we are really hoping to lose some weight while we are at it. We might set aside time for prayer so we can check that box or mark it off of our daily Lenten to-do-list, but are we really engaged in our prayer? Are we opening ourselves up for the activity of the Holy Spirit? For Inspiration in the true sense of word? Are we pausing for a moment to allow Continue reading

Staying and going – a Lenten journey

MetanoiaIt is Ash Wednesday, and Lent begins. There were many Lents when I was away from church, and did nothing – barely noting the season. When I returned,  it was in a gung-ho fashion – excessively abstemious, but frequently failing and overdoing the mea culpas. What a pity that I lacked any insight about mercy, compassion, or the reconciliation that comes from metanoia.

That brings me to the present moment, a place that offers a different point of view. On my heart today is that Lent is a journey that is simultaneously about staying and about going. We are called to go to the desert, that is the going part. The staying? Well, that is often the hardest part, staying in those places of challenge, which paradoxically can only be found when we go out into the desert.  We must Continue reading

Lent thus far

We may be one week into Lent, but this submission from Shannon O’Donnell, written originally for the start of Lent, still holds true. How is your Lenten journey thus far?

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

For the first time or the twelfth or the sixty-third, we stand at the borderland of Lent. The bright promise of Easter and its celebrations of light, water, oil, and Eucharist Continue reading

Ash Wednesday and Hard Hearts – The Trouble With Change

(Please note, I am going to start using the “more” feature, so click to keep reading. It will not direct you to another page or site, as it did in the past. Thank you!)
heart_stoneHere we are, another Ash Wednesday. This one comes so late, too. By this time last year Easter was clearly on the horizon, at the end of March. This year, we are just about to begin Lent.

Somehow, all I can think about is the dark of winter and Lent, and how light it will be starting next week. No, no, no… Something feels off about that.

It’s me that is off if I am honest; I don’t like change as much as I pretend to like it. Why can’t Lent always start in early or mid-February? My pretty, shiny stone heart likes it better that way! Insert pouting face here.

Oh Ash Wednesday, you are upon us.  Today work was full of the usual “Ashes will be distributed at masses at 9, 12, and 6:30pm.” My goal is to avoid the church secretary’s tongue twister that offers the potential for mixing up ASHES and MASSES.  If the “sh” ends up with the m, then the double s goes Continue reading

There Will Be Ashes

What is it about Ash Wednesday? What calls so many people into church? Is it the desire to show off our marked foreheads? If so, that runs in contradiction to today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;

But I got my ashes, shouldn’t people know? I mean, how can they not know?

I thought that I was announcing the Good News via the smudge on my forehead! Hey! Look! I went to church today and I am sorry for my sins! Can’t you see that? Continue reading