“For we to die are ready, Who, living, cling to thee.” – From the German hymn Bei dir, Jesu, will ich bleiben by Karl Johann Philipp Spitta
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. We think of this time as Jesus’ enduring and overcoming temptation and indeed it was—but equally so, it was Jesus’ time of preparation and strengthening for the years of ministry ahead of him in which he would demonstrate the power of God over sin and death, ultimately leading to his death and resurrection!
Jesus, and we, are strengthened by our intentional ascetical practices during the Lenten season, to resist the powers of evil at work in our lives and in the world at large. Jesus knew that the ministry he was about to engage in would require of him more than he could humanly bear—and so, he sought complete fellowship with His Father. Can we do any less?
Let us open our lives over this Lenten season, in two complimentary ways.
1. First, we are called to make personal changes in our lives. We open up before God specific-to-us areas He invites us to change. Create space for God. Discard habits and distractions that keep you from experiencing joy in God. We turn down the volume of our hectic lives so we can hear the whispers, perceive the presence, encounter the gravity of our weakness and finitude, face our mortality, mourn our slavery to sin, and lament death’s power over us. Let us make room for Jesus Christ in our lives! Consider this time of decrease as an invitation to be filled with the knowledge of the love of God for you, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2. Ash Wednesday, and this season of Lent that now follows, is a bugle call to the church to admit, confess, lament, the sins of the church. Just as Nehemiah and Daniel and other prophets stood in for- and confessed the sins of God’s people, we too, are called to stand in for all those church people who are not yet seeing the need to mourn, lament, repent and seek God’s forgiveness. In 1 Peter, it says the time has come for judgement to fall first on the household of God. Today we seek to engage in making amends. Yes, society is sinful, but westandfirst under judgment for our abuses of power withinthe church. Sandals: sexual and otherwise, and our complicity with systemic evil—racism, sexism, classism, including our many sins of omission when the truth “it is enough, not to see, not to listen, not to act” applies to us, Christ’s body.
We are all deserving of judgment. But wedo so in the knowledge that the judgment is going to be lifted. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”Lent is a season of remembrance of our human frailty and obedienceto God’s invitation to righteousness.
“Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.” (Dorothy Sayers)
Let us all: “thin our lives in order to thicken our communion with God. Decrease is holy only when the destination is love.” (Alicia Britt Chole)