Ash Wednesday. I have to admit that I’m not ready yet…it doesn’t feel like Lent should be upon us yet. Christmas seems too close, and the grey of winter is very prominent out my window at the moment.
I’m not really focused yet, I haven’t prayed and prepared in anticipation. I have an idea of what to give up for Lent…I’m giving up my games on FaceBook. That sounds trivial, and in the face of what Lent is about it truly is a bit trivial. I wrote last year about giving up Facebook, and I know that giving up games is a token activity. It is, however, an act done in the desire of discipline and in the desire to focus.
The grey outside the window is appropriate for the moment. Ash Wednesday. I do not attend a church where we meet today and have crosses in ash placed on our foreheads, but I wish I did. There is something that resonates with me in that physical, symbolic act. I need the physical, the visual, reminders of the markers of my faith.
Today should stand out a bit, there should be a sobriety to this entrance to the season of Lent. A time to pay attention and turn our focus toward the Cross. I know, we should always be mindful of the Cross and of the foundation of our faith…but this season is different.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51
Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, to go to the Cross. He knew the cost that was coming. I know it as a gift, and yet this season is also a gift: a time to reflect and to focus and to recognize the reality of a Savior come to earth to redeem us.
So, giving up silly games…but more than that, turning toward Jerusalem and watching as Jesus makes his way there. I need help to focus. I need the ashen cross to be marked on me to remind me of the cost and of the significance of this season. Sometimes I need the help of other’s words, so I’m hoping to find poems for the days of Lent. Starting today with this from Malcolm Guite…a reminder that the deep call of Lent is of hope. Things are marred and broken, and sometimes we ignore that. Lent is the call to pay attention and to embrace the hope that God will redeem and bring beauty from the ashes (you can find Malcolm’s comments on the poem, along with audio, at his website):
Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.
He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.