Read Isaiah 58
Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
All about Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the deep season of Lent. If you attend an observance, you will probably be given an opportunity to take the sign of the cross on your forehead with ashes collected by burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms.
The symbol is meant to remind us of our need for repentance, the need to turn and go in a new direction. We make the ashes out of the palms we used last Palm Sunday — the palms that symbolized our hope in Jesus being a triumphant king. As ashes, they remind us that we often get things wrong and we often need to turn around, to repent and concentrate our attention on how to depend on God in our lives more actively.
Like the people in Jerusalem who greeted Jesus during his final entry into the city, we all want Jesus to be a visible, easy-to-know-and-follow king who is always the winner, always leading a joyous parade. But as we all know, that parade from last Palm Sunday—as is true with every Palm Sunday parade, leads not to our easy discipleship, but instead to the cross, where something far deeper than our desire to win is won for us.
We can’t live lives marked by Jesus and stay on the surface of things, following rules, trying to appear right and be good. Jesus told the Pharisees those aspirations were just not a viable option. He said such an ambition would be a delusion because our hearts are the problem. We need something new to happen at the depths of us. Jesus is calling for a new way of being altogether. We must go to the heart of things and to the heart of ourselves, turn away from our ideas of what’s best and turn to the Living God. That pursuit makes Lent one of the wonders of the year.
A word from Rod for those who feel too bad to be involved in Lent: [link]
Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot
Some Catholic teaching on Lent for beginners.
Renovare books for Lent.
A minute and a half from the Anglicans on Ash Wednesday.
A Lutheran pastor tries to make sense of it for the kids:
What do we do with this?
If you are not eager to attend an observance, make yourself do it. If you can’t go at night, go in the morning to one of the Catholic or Episcopal rites. Lent is a season for getting your body to go the direction of your faith. Wear the cross.
If you have not prepared for Lent to begin, now would be a good time to do it. Maybe you should get on Amazon (or go wherever) and buy a cross to wear all season — or make one! (The kids might love to do that). You can try on all the traditional disciplines of Lent (especially the fast). But if you sit with Jesus for a few minutes it might become obvious what this year’s observance should be about for you — go with your inspiration.
13 things you can do to stay of the Lent pilgrimage
- Take the weekly readings from Sunday wprship and chew on them all week in the daily time you set apart to be with God. You could use 2POAPT.
- Check your church’s calendar and make a commitment for which meetings you will attend, then go to the meetings. This is a bigger deal than we think, usually. Going to a meeting gets our body in line with our convictions.
- Try a new spiritual practice. Go on a personal retreat. Try 20 minutes of contemplation every day. Study a book. Saturate yourself in a book of the Bible each week, reading it as many times as you can.
- Ponder how you use money. Maybe pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and then give the money you would usually spend to a charity that makes your heart warm.
- Take something on: A weekly letter to someone. A daily random act of kindness. Sunday phone calls to important or needy people in your life. Hold that dinner party you thought about.
- When you first sit down in front of your computer, or at the very end of your workday, try a 10-minute guided prayer from Sacred Space daily prayer.
- Buy a new cross of icon to use for Lent and give to someone on Easter.
- Instead of turning on a streaming service for your next binge-watching session, read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.
- Unplug from your phone or turn off your car radio on your commute. Let the silence jar you until you are acclimated to being yourself with God in solitude.
- Buy a book of daily reflections and keep it by your bed or prayer chair. Try a book by Edward Hays.
- Think about a habit that has kept you from being who God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.
- Tap into your creative side somehow. You could try coloring as a way to pray. Write that song or story or poem.
- Read the works of mercy Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46. Put His teaching into practice by choosing and act or two of service you can offer during Lent.