Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Christian Life: Ash Wednesday

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice
[Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot]

T. S. Eliot, the early 20th century American Poet, transplanted to England, wrote these verses around 1928, after his conversion. The poem reflects Eliot's struggle to come to faith. The starkness of his imagery reminds me of what Ash Wednesday and the Christian season of Lent are all about.

Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter Sunday, not including Sundays. The day inaugurates the season of Lent, a time of repentance before Easter - resurrection Sunday. It is a season of repentance, reflection and of learning. It is a time of preparation.

As a Baptist, I realize that we do not usually pay any formal attention to Ash Wednesday and to Lent. This is a terrible oversight I believe. There must be a place for a 'season' of repentance that is both personal and corporate. A time when individual believers can reflect upon life and confess our failures, and then reflect on what God desires from us; and a time when the corporate body of Christ can reflect and repent of its own sin. Indeed it is the repentant life that marks every Christian, or at least it should. I am reminded of the words of 1 John 1:8-10...

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

The Christian life is a life that understands its own frailty and failures. It understands its need for the divine life in order to live and thrive. Ash Wednesday and Lent put our pride back into place, reminding us that we cannot do it on our own. They remind us that our life belongs to God and that repentance is an important part of being a follower of Christ. There is no other way. Joy comes in the morning to the repentant heart. To the repentant heart, resurrection is everything; to the prideful heart, Easter is just another Sunday, marked by stuffed bunnies and colorful hard-boiled eggs. If you decide to honor this season in your own life, I pray that God will speak to you in a powerful way.

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame that my selfishness consistently comes between Jesus and I, especially around this time. Every year, I say I am going to give up something for Lent; every year, I either forget or change my mind. This year, I am starting my Lent late, because I just realized today that it started today. :) I want to make sure that, by giving up _________, I am opening myself up to honor God and hear His voice, not to draw attention to how awesome I am by giving something up.