Almost without notice, Lent is upon us!
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the 10th of February. There are two days of note prior to that, however, which “set up” what we’re about as Christians. On the last Sunday after the celebration of the realization that God is not a God of a finite number of people but of everyone and everything, past present and yet to come – we call this Epiphany – every year on the last Sunday before we begin Lent, the Gospel reading describes Jesus’ miraculous meeting with Moses and Elijah on the mountain top. The window of time and space is pulled open just a little so that we can discover how we are all part of the mystery of God’s Love in creation.
The second “event” is also an annual one. On the day before Lent begins, we celebrate with a feast of special foods and light-hearted conversations and pleasures. Mardi Gras – “Fat Tuesday” – Shrove Tuesday – different names for the same day, shouldn’t be seen as days on which we over-indulge and then enter into some state of deprivation. What we do in our lives as we stand on the doorstep of Lent is to acknowledge that all is good, all is worthy of celebration.
As we begin Lent on Ash Wednesday, though, we remind ourselves of the transitory nature of our human life. We think about the delicate nature of ourselves and all around us, and how slender a physical thread holds us together. We begin by acknowledging how we fall short of who and what we could be, blessed as we are with God’s Love and the resources which lie within us.
“Dust we are and to dust we shall return”, are some of the words that stick in one’s mind from the Wednesday liturgy. They sound somber. That’s part of their intent. But they remind us also that we belong. We’re part of the miraculous Creation Chain of events and particles which resulted from God’s irrepressible Love spilling out. Dust, then, is not something to be scorned but to be embraced.
And that’s what Lent is about: reminding, teaching, encouraging us to embrace all that we are and all that we can be with God’s help. Such discipline as we may choose to adopt, then, is intended not to fetter us but to help us see what is essential, what is good, what is miraculous about our being, and to help us discover more of the picture of who we are growing to be in the reign of God.
There will be a different tone to the Liturgies, both of Sundays in Lent and in the extra ones – Ash Wednesday and in Holy Week, along with the less formal ones at our weekday groups. And the Monday morning and Thursday evening groups will help us to focus on our spiritual growth into God’s Holy people.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people!