Lent is the journey from death – the reality we are born with and live with – to life found in Easter – where we experience the resurrection and the gospel anew. Lent is a season of darkness – of death – because it’s a time to reflect on our own brokenness and sinfulness, the pain we cause ourselves others, the grief our rejection causes God. Lent is a season of darkness, because on our own, we have little hope. On our own, our story will fade into darkness.
Lent is known as a season where you “give something up.” We give something up as a sign of the emptiness in our lives – a sign that the shallow things we do to occupy our time or satisfy us do not and will not ultimately bring life. Another Lenten tradition is “adding something” – we add something because we cannot save ourselves, so we add something to turn our eyes upon God, because our hope and salvation rests only in the mercy and grace of God through the life, death, and resurrection of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Lent is a 40 day journey, and Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this journey. The first night in a 40-day period of reflection – and these 40 days are deeply symbolic in our Christian faith. As we spend 40 days in Lent, we remember the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering from God – attempting over and over again to save themselves, relying on their own strength and understanding. Like the Israelites, our plans – as good as they may be – will not suffice. We cannot save ourselves.
During these 40 days of Lent, we also remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing isolation and temptation,
Unlike the Israelites, and unlike us, Jesus – Lord and Messiah, as the true son and image of God, remained faithful to the father, making a path in the wilderness, preparing the way for the good news of God’s salvation to be extended as a gift of grace to all creation, and to us.
Us. the lonely. the wandering. the broken and the ones who have broken others. the mourning and the ones who have brought sadness. the sinful. the hurting. The addicts. The prideful. the deviant. the afflicted and the inflictors.
During Lent we recognize that on our own, our path leads to death and decay.
In Genesis 3, the rebellion of creation against the creator results in a curse – the snake, the tempter, is cursed – the ground is cursed, and human beings, both male and female created in God’s image, are cursed: for dust you are and to dust you will return.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and we remember how true this is: for dust you are, and to dust you will return.
Our community had a small Ash Wednesday service tonight, and I wrote this to kick off the service (and the season of Lent).