Ashes, Burlap and Q-Tips

Lent, a season of the Church steeped in tradition and ritual, isn’t immune from the need for adjustment due to this unique time of life during COVID. We are grateful to be able to offer opportunities of the season individually and as a Community of Faith, as we continue with safety as a primary value.

Reflecting this irregular time of life, included in this newsletter are packets with irregular pieces of burlap smeared with ashes in the form of a cross. You may keep them where you see them, use them as a bookmark, or touch the ashes to your skin on Ash Wednesday if you are worshipping online that evening. The burlap is reminiscent of the sackcloth of ancient times worn as a sign of mourning, humility, or penitence. Sackcloth was made from goat hair and was quite uncomfortable. Personally, I am grateful that such signs of humility are no longer in vogue. Yet, humility is most definitely an attitude or way of being which could be valued more highly in our world. What will remind us this Lenten season to remember that we alone are not the center of all things?

Though Lent is a word widely spoken and heard, it continues to come with its own mystery and various understandings. Lent is a time of repentance (repent means to turn around) and preparation for the celebration of new life at Easter. Repentance, like sack cloth isn’t a fashionable focus. And yet, there are hundreds of things from which we could choose to turn from that would literally change our world—starting with our own personal space and moving out from there.

Some traditions of Lent include giving up of something—the intent, of course, is to fill the empty space with prayer or actions that bring us to a better place. Personally, I like the notion of “adding” something. Neither of these need to be time-consuming if that is a reason we may choose to forego the practice. We could give up a few minutes of screen time; add a few minutes of prayer; give up criticizing; add words of affirmation to our vocabulary; give up complaining about things that we cannot change; add intentional gratitude; give up a persistent anger towards another; add seeing that person’s humanity. The list could be endless with opportunities.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to begin working on something that becomes a habit that improves our relationships and spirits.

Our Lenten worship theme is Holy Vessels—Lent as a season of renewal and recoverySometimes things break—our worlds or lives seem to shatter, or at least fracture or crack. This theme will acknowledge brokenness, our journey towards wholeness, and the joy of renewal and new life.

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