Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Season of Ash and Somber Penitence--Lent Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, the Christian high holy day that reminds us of our essential nature. We are dust--cosmic dust, if you want to dress up the idea, but dust nonetheless. And all too soon, we return to the dust of the cosmos. We don't really have much time, but most of us manage to suppress that knowledge. How would we live our lives differently, if we, like Jesus, always kept central in our mind, that we only have a few years to do our essential work? In cosmic time or geological time, we're here for a blip.

Here's a quote from Henri Nouwen to start your day. It's from A Cry for Mercy: "Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says 'I am too sinful to deserve God's mercy.' It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride. Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord. The question is: 'Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God's mercy any longer and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?' The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God's mercy."

Here is a prayer for Ash Wednesday: "Oh God, keep us mindful of all the behaviors that move us away from you. Help us to choose our Lenten disciplines wisely. Help us to remember that we are here for such a short time, that all to soon we shall return to our dusty destinies. Keep us focused on the Kingdom work that you need us to do."

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