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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (February 2016)

posted Feb 5, 2016, 1:21 PM by Russell D. Hampton

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

These are the words we hear when we come forward to receive the sign of the cross on Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our journey through Lent – as we travel with Jesus as he makes his way to the cross.  The ashes that make the sign of the cross on our foreheads remind us of our frailty and mortality.  We are nothing more than dust and one day we shall return to that dust.  The ashes remind us that one day we will come to an end.

What a way to begin a journey – with ash!  With a reminder that every life placed on God’s creation will end in death.  Yet, there is a greater meaning to that cross of ash.  The cross placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the One who will lead us out of death and into new life.  The cross of ash reaffirms the good news that, since we have been joined to the death of Jesus Christ, we shall certainly be joined to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The cross of ash seems like an ending, but becomes an invitation to make each day a new beginning.  Each day is a new beginning as we remember the promises made to us in baptism – that God continually washes us in forgiveness, mercy, and love.  With that cross on our brow, we await for the renewal that comes from the Easter Festival of Resurrection. 

While we wait for the celebration of the Easter Festival, we can work towards renewing our lives and relationship with God.  During Lent, we can works toward renewal through specific disciplines.  Now, I do not want you to think you have to make these disciplines a personal goal to be reached in 40 days.  I exhort you to place more emphasis on them during Lent so they can become a part of your daily lives throughout the whole church year. 

1.      Give alms – The hungry and poor will always be with us, not because God intends for it to be so, but because sin leads humanity into greed and neglect.  During Lent, our fundraising focus (see article) will be ELCA World Hunger “40 Days of Giving.”  Consider taking part in this fundraising effort. 

2.      Pray – We should pray every day thanking God for what we have and asking God to grant to us what we need.  Take time this Lent to strengthen your prayer life.  Prayer also helps us to listen for God’s voice in the midst of a chaotic world. 

3.      Fast – Traditionally, fasting means to give up food for a period of time.  However, think of other ways you can “fast” – limit time on social media or watching television; give up unhealthy foods and aim to eat healthy foods; if the weather is conducive to being outside, try to walk to places nearby instead of driving your car.  

4.      Practice Forgiveness – One of the hardest things to do is forgive another.  It is easier to hold onto anger and hurt then to let it go and move on with our lives.  Take some time this Lent to practice forgiveness and pray others will forgive you.   

5.      Engage in God’s Word – Read the Scriptures, attend a Bible Study, or participate in the Lenten mid-week services.  The Word is one of two ways (the other being partaking in the Sacraments) we are given assurances of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.     

Blessings to you during Lent!  In Christ ~ Pastor Maureen

Prayer: Gracious God, your mercy is greater than our imaginations, and the expanse of your love is beyond our comprehension.  Open our hearts, stretch our minds, and widen our perspectives, that we may recognize your work in and through our lives.  Amen.  (Bread for the Day: Daily Bible Readings and Prayers, 2016, p.31)