Lent began last Wednesday. Rev. Moses traced the sign of the cross with ashes on my forehead. Some people find Ash Wednesday depressing. I appreciated Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s discussion of how Ash Wednesday is not depressing but refreshing because we gather to remind each other of the truth:
“What is so wonderful about Ash Wednesday and Lent is that through being marked with the cross and reminded of our own mortality we are free. Reminded that the God of your salvation, the same God who created you from the very earth to which you will return – the very God of Moses and Sarah and Abraham is also God for you.” Bolz-Weber said the promise that “we are dust and to dust we shall return” is a truth that will set us free in a way that nothing else ever can.
With this reminder, I stepped into Lent. I imagined a desert – not a glacier – but nonetheless I had the intention of slowing down to pay attention to life. To notice life instead of getting caught up in habit and routine. (Most of us were forced to slow down last week with the ice storm!) This Lent, whether we give up something or add a spiritual practice, we are invited to be present and to notice the presence of God.
The season of Lent beckons us to see what we are clinging to. These days draw us into a wilderness in which we can more readily see what we have shaped our daily lives around. Three prayer stations at Sunday night’s Street worship service invited us to sift and sort through our lives.
Worshippers were invited to compare and contrast “lent” and “lint.” When you hear the word “lent,” what comes to mind? Sounds like lint. Is it something in your belly button or your dryer? What about a season of the church year? Lent is the period of 40 days leading up to Easter; lent can allow time for self-examination and reflection. We are invited to remove the “lint” that is stuck to us. God removes the lint, the junk: things that get in the way of our love of God and neighbor. May we pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Lint rollers were at this prayer station with the invitation to roll the lint brush on your shirt or jeans and know that you are loved. Forgiven. Made new.
Worshippers were also invited to place their hands in a bowl of sand and think of the landscape of their own lives. What have we shaped our daily lives around? Habits, practices, possessions, commitments, conflicts, relationships—all the stuff that we give ourselves to in a way that becomes more instinctual than intentional. What sifting and sorting needs to be done?
A final prayer station had scraps of sandpaper scattered on the table. We held the sandpaper in our hands, thinking of our prayers. Some of us scribbled pictures or words on the sandpaper. These desert prayers, these scraps of sandpaper, were placed in our desert sandbox of prayers.
As the 40-day journey continues, may we each commit to being present and noticing the presence of God. Whether we have power (hopefully!) or find broken branches in our way, may we live into God’s refreshing promise of life.