Ash Wednesday

It’s March 1st. I can’t believe it. Where has the time gone?
 
Easter is almost HERE!! Which must mean, that the season of Lent is upon us.
Lent, comes from an Old English word meaning, “Spring.” The early Christian church, though, would have used the word, “Quadragesima”. I know…now you know why we call it Lent.
 
Quadragesima you might have guessed means “40th”. Forty (40) is used a lot in scripture. Noah experienced forty days and forty nights of rain. Moses stayed on Mount Sinai for forty days. The Israelites spent forty years wandering around in the wilderness. Ezekiel laid on his side for forty days to symbolize Judah’s punishment. Elijah and Jesus went 40 days without food or water. Over and over again, the Bible refers to 40 as a “long period of time”. So long in fact, we lost count of the days. Therefore, let’s just use the word forty. But let me set that thought aside for a second.
 
Lent or Spring, very clearly marks the process of death and returning life, especially if you live in the Temperate zone of the US. The leaves from the trees fall, their branches go barren and grey. Flowers wither, and grass loses its green color and stops growing altogether. We hibernate a bit, as the cold weather keeps us inside. Even the sky morns the coming winter season, by turning dark before you can even get home from work. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can join me in how our own spirits can even die. So much, that I’d rather just stay in bed until Spring. Maybe Bears have something on us.
 
Now let’s put those two concepts together. The subtle dying of nature, as we give ourselves over to winter, last a very long time. So long in fact, that we forget what it was like to go out without a jacket. And we forget to enjoy the coolness, for how hot it will be in just a few short months. Fall and winter are longer than 40 days. But we know for certain, that Spring is coming. And so, we endure through grey skies and shortened days…
 
Because…somewhere in March, life will reappear. Buds will appear on the trees. The grass will start growing again, the birds will return to their early morning songs. What was once dead…for a VERY long time…is reborn…resurrected.
 
Starting this coming Wednesday, March 6th, we will begin to prepare ourselves for renewal, restoration, and reconciliation. We will start this coming Wednesday, with our Ash Wednesday Service. I hope you can join us in the sanctuary at 5:30pm following dinner.
 
But…If I can make one suggested change to your Lenten season this year, I’d like it to be this. Don’t “give up” anything for Lent. Instead, I want you to pray for some unrevealed promise that might inspire you or your family, as we move toward Easter. Is there a loved one, for whom you are praying? Someone in need of salvation? Are you praying for peace in the midst of suffering? Reconciliation…in the midst of a broken relationship? Children…who are making their way in a highly seductive world? Parents…who are facing health and dementia?
 
Maybe you are praying for a new job, a new ministry opportunity, or finding purpose within your current vocation. Maybe you are praying your way out of debt. Maybe you are praying to be free from some type of addiction or bad habit. Maybe you are asking for emotional stability, or sustainable joy.
This Lenten season, let’s not be about “giving up” something. But let’s be about “leaning in for more.” Lean into God over the next 40 days. Be intentional and persistent in prayer and meditation on the scriptures. Wrestle with God, and do not let go. For resurrected life is coming. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. But don’t lose faith. As sure as Easter comes every year, so does an end to your temporary plight. And may God grant you an attitude of thanksgiving, as you experience joy and peace in every new victory.
 
See you Sunday.