No, I am not trying to sneak this in as if it is Ash Wednesday. I did think it would be good to reflect on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season as a way of getting into my Lenten practice--to blog daily (except Sundays) through Lent.
Ash Wednesday is generally one of the busiest days of the year for me. You would think it would be Christmas Eve or Easter or some other high holy moment in the Christian year--no Ash Wednesday. I see Ash Wednesday as the day that sets the tone for the whole season of Lent. Lent is a time of repentance, of reflection, of looking at ourselves and our relationship with God honestly--no sugar coating or rationalizing or hiding--just us raw and vulnerable with God.
I find it interesting that we often do not like looking in the mirror of our souls. What is it we see? What is it we are afraid of? All of this comes to the surface to be cleansed and healed during the season of Lent. We walk through the valley of the shadow toward the day of Resurrection. It is...intimidating.
I am so busy preparing for the evening Ash Wednesday service, because I feel that in order to set the right tone, the service should be prayed over, thought out, with a specific aim of preparing those in attendance for Lent. It isn't that the usual Sunday morning service doesn't have a specific focus or isn't prayed over--it is. But the Sunday morning service happens every Sunday. The format rarely changes, it is comfortable and predictable. It isn't that Christmas and Easter aren't intentional or prayed over--they are. But these services tend to be traditional, so while not every week, every year there are similarities--including the scriptural text. Ash Wednesday, however, while every year, comes with more thought of what those in attendance need to come fully into right relationship with God. What will begin their journey in such a way that they are inspired to continue it?
For the past several years, I have incorporated a time of prayer, meditation, and reflection, including prayer stations. I have typically had four, but this year I added six more. In the past, I have taken these stations down following the Ash Wednesday service, but this year I have placed them in a room near the sanctuary. These stations will be left up all Lent long, open and waiting for those who need to renew their commitment to observing a holy Lent.
It is my prayer, as I worked to set these stations up, making sure everything necessary was provided for, that those who visit these stations--maybe once, maybe several times--will connect with God in a real and meaningful way. That they will begin to see themselves--the good and the bad--through God's eyes. That they will make the necessary changes in their lives, in their attitudes, and in their hearts to grow in their discipleship and draw closer to God.
My prayer and my practices tend to be for others and their relationship with God. Maybe I will explore why that is in future posts. Blessings for a holy Lent.