Change of Seasons (Sorry, it’s not Spring)
It’s officially March today, and my inner timekeeper is shouting at me that it’s time for a change of seasons. As I look at the long range forecast for Chicagoland, however, it’s clear that winter will be lingering and spring delayed. Be that as it may, the church calendar will turn the page this week Wednesday, AKA Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent will begin.
The season of Lent is a time and space in which we are called to pause our regular routines and enter more intentionally into disciplines like prayer, self-examination, and repentance. Sounds fun, right?! But these “disciplines” — I’ll call them Spiritual exercises — as significant as they, are not what Lent is ultimately about. They seasonal disciplines of Lent are a means to an end. The real goal of Lent, and of Ash Wednesday in particular, is that we would return to God with all our heart.
It is common practice as Lent begins to ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?” This is a fine question as it may identify what is keeping us away from God and blocking the path of Jesus in our lives. But it only get us so far. The best question of Lent is posed in the Book of Joel, chapter three: “How might I find a way to return to God with all my heart?”
I have two invitations to help you return to God and embrace the changing of the spiritual seasons...
- You are invited to mark the first day of Lent by attending a special Ash Wednesday meditation service on March 6 at 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., or 6:30 p.m. The meditation will last approximately 20 minutes and will include music and singing, a time for quiet prayer to linger on the possibility of returning to God, and will conclude with the imposition of ashes.
The “imposition of ashes” is an ancient Christian tradition in which worshipers are marked on the forehead with ashes in the sign of the cross. This action has multiple layers of meaning: (1) Ashes are a symbol of our repentance, of our desire to turn back to God; (2) Ashes demonstrate our solidarity with Jesus, and with his journey to the cross and through the grave; (3) The sign of the cross in ashes is Christ’s own signature on us that we belong to Him.
- Our church staff is introducing a Lenten prayer practice called, “Secret Saints.” If you’ve ever been part of a Secret Santa game, you understand how this will works. Anyone who signs up for this prayer exercise will be able to share prayer requests (big or small!) with an anonymous prayer partner. You can sign up in the lobby after worship on Sunday or Ash Wednesday, or by emailing Caryn Rivadeneira [email protected] We’ll send you instructions in short order!
I’m longing for the first signs of spring to arrive, but there is a more significant change of seasons on the immediate horizon: a change of seasons that has to do with the coming-back-to-life of our spirits.
Grace and peace to you as we begin this 40-day journey retracing Jesus’ path to the upper room, the cross, the empty grave, and beyond.