“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him, and
not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say,
Here I am.’”
Today is Ash Wednesday – let’s welcome the gifts to come in this season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the season in the Christian Year we call the Cycle of Life* – a season of 40 days (not including Sundays) that lead us to Easter.
Lent is a season where we reorient to the Christ-carved path of becoming less to become more, of falling to our knees in order to rise to our feet.
Leveraging historic practices such as the imposition of ashes (from dust we came, and to dust we return), fasting, prayer, reflection, action, and asking forgiveness, we re-member, re-center, and re-order our lives around what matters most – knowing as we are known, loving as we are loved, by God.
Being known and being loved is all we will take with us across the line, though the world will fight to change that perspective in us in just the next few minutes after you read this and go about your business. The world does it to me; I’m sure it does it to you as well.
We mimic Jesus in the way He does not “consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6), and we mimic the saints of present and past history in their quest to die with Christ in all the many ways we must, in order to rise with Christ in all the powerful ways we can (Rom. 6:5).
With a world reeling from a long season of loss through death, disorientation, and disturbance, the Church models the humility of prayer as our highest and most powerful response – an act in which we lay down our best efforts upon the foundation of prayer to an unseen God who brings impossible things into being.
As we pray, we do so with deep compassion – we mourn with those who mourn; we grieve with those who grieve. Yet, in so doing, we embrace that our mourning and grief are preambles to Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18) – a Hope that stands no matter what the darkest moments in history can dish out.
In Lent, I re-order my life once again through an extended season of Holy Spirit guided self-examination, and grace infused action for the sake of the world.
- I review my relationship with God for any hindrances that may keep me pursuing upward mobility rather than downward intimacy.
- I review my relationships with others for any ways I am drawing from them strength or value that I am meant to be drawing from Jesus.
- I review my relationship with creation to understand how I use resources rather than stewarding them to pass on to generations to come.
- I review my relationship with myself by re-considering the narratives that go on in my head about who I am, Whose I am, and what I am put on earth to do every day – and rewriting them with the Holy Spirit as needed.
The world needs me to empty myself, like my Lord before me (Phil. 2:7), to be broken and poured out like the bread and the cup of the Eucharist, for the sake of praying, acting, and serving as Jesus prayed, acted, and served.
As I descend with Christ in Lent, toward the enigma of the cross, I become like Him in His self-offering, His suffering, and His death, all for the world He loves and I am coming to love the same.
As we begin Ash Wednesday, may the Peace of Christ fill you as you re-learn how to pray, how to watch your life closely, how to act from a foundation of love, and how to lose your life so you can truly, truly find it.
Grace and Peace, and I’m praying for you this Lent season,
* I’ve written in other places about the Christian Year and what we call the Cycle of Light (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) and the Cycle of Life (Lent, Easter, Pentecost/Kingdomtide). These seasons are beautifully explained and covered in Robert E. Webber’s book, Ancient-Future Time.
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