Today is Ash Wednesday

March 5, 2014

It’s days like today that make me miss being part of a church that tries to combine vintage liturgical practices with modern expressions.

I didn’t grow up knowing of the significance of Ash Wednesday or Lent, but discovered it in my young adulthood. There’s something so incredibly powerful about Ash Wednesday… something that speaks to the nature of our lives, to the fragility of our existence. And something that speaks to the Hands that hold us even as we return to dust. We are so loved. So unspeakably loved.

And the season of Lent always reminds me of a dear man, Burton Nelson, who died  10 years ago on March 22 during the celebration of Lent. He exemplified the practice of Lent in his life, giving himself over again and again to Jesus and the things Jesus cared about. Because that’s what Lent is about. Giving over. Giving over our very lives, our frailties, our brokenness, our delusions. Giving over our control issues and our greed. Giving over our insecurities and lusts. Giving over our comfortable misery. Giving over the things we try so hard to hold onto.

Giving them over to Jesus.

And with our hands newly emptied of our junk, this season reminds us that we have room now to receive. To receive the gifts of God for the people of God. To receive that cross, grace-washed and worn.

Lent loosens our grip so that might grip something better. And so today, I envy those faithful people who visited their worship communities and heard the stilling words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return,” and who received the blessing of the ash cross, black and smudgy on their foreheads. And I wonder what I will be asked to give over these next 40 days of Lent.

And I hope that I too will allow my white-knuckled grip to release so I can find I’m held even tighter in the hand of God.

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