Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary - Day ONE: Ash Wednesday

Lent is a journeying experience. It consists of 40 days and 6 Sundays. Many Christians will choose to fast from something during these days of wandering and wondering. And they will fast for each of those 40 days. But not the Sundays. I just discovered that about five years ago, and somehow, that has helped enormously!

Some of us will choose to add something for Lent, too. A discipline of some sort. And this year, I've chosen to do it this way: each day of Lent, I will post a brief reflection, centered around one of the Lectionary texts for that day. The Sunday Lectionary is a gift to the gathered church, a rotating, 3-year calendar of readings from the Psalter, the Old Testament, the Epistles and the Gospels for each Sunday from Advent through the end of Ordinary Time the following fall. We are currently in Year B. 

The daily texts come from a 2 year rotation of personal devotional readings. These include psalms for morning and evening plus an Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lesson for each day of the week. So during the week - from Monday through Saturday - I will follow the 2 year rotation, selecting one of the daily texts to ponder. But on Sundays, I will choose one of the 3-year rotating Lectionary texts for each of the six Sundays in Lent. I will most often choose to offer my own musings as I read through the selected passage for each day, but I have been known to dip into the rich well of resources available to the church from across the last two centuries with some frequency, so you never know what you might find in this small space. 

You are invited to join me as I try on this discipline in Lent 2012. The format will be the same each day: a photo for reflection; the text for the day; some musings on that text; a brief word with God. I invite you to ponder each day's text for yourself and see where God speaks to your own heart as you read.

The words of Jesus in Luke 18:9-14 - The New Living Translation

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


"Ashes, ashes, we all fall down..."

Yes, we do.
We all fall down.
Down, down, down.
     Down into addiction,
     down into depression,
     down into discouragement,
     down into failure.
We all fall down.

But sometimes I read a gospel story like this one and I wonder: 
is that such a bad thing?
This fact, this hard, hard truth, 
that we all fall down?

I wonder if maybe we need to fall down if we ever hope to rise up?

Maybe we need those ashes, 
those ashes that remind us how far we've fallen,
maybe we need them to picture for us:
     our need for a Savior,
     our need for a Friend,
     our need for forgiveness,
     our need for a future filled with hope.

As I begin this Lenten journey, O Lord, I want to say thank you for the ashes. For the dark smudge on my forehead, put there by my pastor. The one that comes from the burned remains of last year's branches from the Palm Sunday celebration. Thank you that with that mark, I remember my own mortality, I declare my need for a Savior - and I rejoice that I am marked as a child of the King. Glory be.