a lenten story.

"Remember, from ashes you came and to ashes you will return."

This is what reads on our church’s website…

Lent…a time to look at the life we live and ask, “Are there things here that we need to die to? Are there habits or thoughts or patterns of living in our lives that aren’t consistent with the life God intended us to live?”

We remind ourselves of the reality of death, but we know that in the end there is resurrection…and in that resurrection we find a love that is stronger than death.

I’m grateful for what our church teaches us about Lent.

I’m also grateful for how our church believes how vital it is to share our stories. They are powerful and remarkable and moving and somehow touch the deep places of the heart. Our stories “bear witness” to the life and story of Jesus and the work that allows him to be put on display…in us and around the world.

So, as Lent season begins, I invite you to read this person’s story…

One of the things that most frightens me about being a pastor is the experience of teaching on a subject that for all intents and purposes I have no business teaching on.

I’ll never forget administering ashes at our first Ash Wednesday service. People shuffled forward and knelt at the bench, and I’d make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say, “Remember, from ashes you came to ashes you’ll return.” Many of them wept, being sure to look you in the eyes and say, “Thank you” with such sincerity that it would bring tears to your own eyes.

With every sign of the cross I felt my own inadequacy and need, and then out of the mass of people in line a man stepped forward and knelt at the bench. When he lifted his head up to be “ashed,” I came face to face with my former employer. I hadn’t left on good terms, and the moment took us both by surprise. There was nowhere for either of us to run, no way to avoid the moment, and as I spoke the words and marked the sign of the cross on his forehead I had the overwhelming sense that God was saying to me, “Do you see how serious I am about repentance?” I knew that putting ashes on his head would mean letting go of the grudge I’d been holding against him.

It seems odd administering the medicine you need so badly yourself.

So…as you enter this Lent season, may you find more of yourself and more of God.

 

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