The Lenten Journey
The journey of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes. As this ancient symbol of human frailty is marked upon the forehead of the recipient, the pastor says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is an invitation, during the season of Lent, to remember – to remember our humanity, our “dustness.” It is an invitation to repentance. But it is also an invitation to renewal and new life. Luke 9:51 tells us that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He knew what was to come. But he also knew that there would be an empty tomb and new life.
Such is the case in our own lives at times. We remember the disappointments and the heartbreaks. We acknowledge the hard decisions made and the hard times lived. And then we look toward the future, to new life, to resurrection hope. This happens not only in a theological sense, but in very real ways in our daily lives.
The Ash Wednesday liturgy in our Book of Common Worship includes these words of invitation: “Friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance, and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ… I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by works of love, and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.”
Together, let us keep a holy Lent, learning anew of God’s grace and forgiveness. I close with this Lenten prayer by The Rev. Dr. Ernest T. Campbell, a fellow Presbyterian, who served as pastor of The Riverside Church in New York City from 1968-1976:
“As we near the hallowed grounds of Gethsemane and Golgotha, we confess to a sense of unworthiness and shame.
Our deprivations are so few,
Our scars so scarce,
Our courage so seldom summoned,
Our passion so wasted on self.
Who are we that we should bear thy name or purport to be thy people?
Forgive us, O God, for we know not what we do. Expose the games we play with thee to stave off the moment of full surrender; and help us to come as the sinners we are, that we may obtain mercy and find help in time of need. Our prayers we offer in faith and with thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”