As we enter into Lent we do it with the full knowledge that God is with us and there is nothing to fear – and that is a relief, because if we take it seriously Lent could be pretty scary, but here, in this time of diving deep and cracking open spiritually, we have the opportunity to let in the new day, the new word and the new love that is to come. So it is worth it!
Lent is the time to come into those cracked and broken places that have the potential to break us apart or make us beautiful as we get put back together in a new way.
Lent is a season of honesty. It is a time of messy awe, complicated doctrine and gentle urging toward contemplation. In Lent we break – open, like an egg breaks, spilling into the pan, the whole egg is only nourishing when it is broken, and it is in this breaking we have the opportunity to be fed.
Lent is a time of breaking apart and a time, if there is any time for such things, to get put back together again in a way that makes us more than we were before.
Lent is the season we embrace ourselves with a kind of fearless acceptance, or it is a season that we ignore.
In this gospel passage Matthew is presuming we are followers of Jesus already and the writer is trying for us to be personally, internally and intentionally honest about this journey.
In times gone by Lent was a time to prepare the new converts for the cost and joy of discipleship. Lent is when we get ashes on our forehead to remind us what is at stake – this Ash Wednesday is when we follow Christ from the Jordon to Golgotha and in six short weeks to his resurrection – here on this day we begin to contemplate how we might fit into this journey.
The writer of Matthew cautions us to not wear our ashes as a badge of honor for others to see how pious we are. While we are in community when we receive ashes and worship together we see each other with us, but the truth is, as we travel day to day in lent we are alone with only ourselves – this is a personal journey isn’t it? We don’t have to brag about it.
Instead of being like someone else is, in lent we are to stand fast in the belief that God matters to us and that we matter to God – here we are willing to be cracked open, to be spilled out and to know we have everything we need to be put back together, but in a new way.
In other words, in order to learn new things we have to be willing to let some of the old out. I would never proclaim to be a physics person, but I believe there is some scientific law that teaches us that new material can be added to an already full container when some of the existing material is removed. And that is what we are attempting to do in Lent.
You are not being asked to physically or psychologically crack – but instead in lent we are asked to do something differently. That is to recognize the cracks that already bother us and honor them for what they are.
From within this cracking open process we must remember that this is— sometimes against all logic – life giving. You are held safely with God all around you as you take on your demons and find angels who will be with you.
Instead of giving up something, I invite you this lent to take on one thing to work on that gets in your way of being in community, or being a disciple of Jesus, or that prevents you from loving yourself or your neighbor. Take that one thing and hold it in prayer for six weeks as your lenten practice.
Remember this isn’t a race or a competition – this isn’t about amassing as much knowledge as you can muster, or being judged by others or being the best at anything. Lent is about slowing down and letting God come into you as we intentionally breathe slower and pay attention to all the goodness around us. Ash Wednesday is just the beginning of your journey
—Reverend Blair Hull,
The Congregational United Church of Christ in Whitewater