Tag Archives: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Last week we were fortunate enough to be at the Centro das Artes Casa das Mudas (Calheta) – in itself an amazing building in a stunning location.

Inside we discovered this gem of art and it seemed entirely appropriate for Ash Wednesday.

Christ, table and ashes by Graca Pereira Coutinho

 

 

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Ash Wednesday – An honest Appraisal

Reblogging this from last year – a moment to pause and reflect

Ash Wednesday is a time for reflection, for confession, for honesty before God.  It is an opportunity also to seek God’s forgiveness – and receive it, deep into our heart and mind; to know that those things that trouble us, and those we are barely aware of but effect us deeply, can be dealt with by God; and to receive his peace.

Ashes are a way to show sorrow, a physical sign of an inner reality.

2014-02-27 12.12.10

Ashes mark penitence and mourning, an acknowledgement of and sorrow at our wrongdoing.

Daniel 9:2-4 (CEV)
Daniel Prays for the People

1-2 Daniel wrote:

Some years later, Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, had become king of Babylonia. And during his first year as king, I found out from studying the writings of the prophets that the Lord had said to Jeremiah, “Jerusalem will lie in ruins for seventy years.” 3-4 Then, to show my sorrow, I went without eating and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. I confessed my sins and earnestly prayed to the Lord my God:

Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.

We go through life.  We think we’re doing ok – not a bad job all things considered.  Or we don’t even have time to stop and think about it.  We are busy just surviving, getting to the next thing, trying to hold everything together.

But sometimes we are pulled up short.  We realise we have got something badly wrong, or just a little bit wrong, and we have to stop and think.  We need to apologise, put right what we have got wrong and receive forgiveness.  Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

Ash Wednesday is a specific opportunity to do that thinking.  To take the time to purposely reflect before God on the reality that is our life.

Burning,
cleansing God,
I come before you today;
I want to take this time
to remember,
to honestly recall,
to examine my life
in your presence;
to ask my self
if I live up to all you ask of me,
day by day,
heartbeat by heartbeat,
in every corner of my life.

We know the Ten Commandments:

The Ten Commandments

20 God said to the people of Israel:

I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

Do not worship any god except me.

Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.

Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.

12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.

13 Do not murder.

14 Be faithful in marriage.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not tell lies about others.

17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Read them slowly, thinking not just about the letter of them, but the spirit too.

Talk honestly to God about where you are with them and with him.  How have I lived out what God wants me to do?  How have I shown love, his love and mine, to those around me?  Not just the lovely people, but those that annoy me too?

I worship God, but are there other gods in my life?  Things I do rather than spend time with God or do what he requires of me?  Are there things I put in God’s place?

Am I free and easy with God’s name?  Do I do or say things that make me sound like I am closer to God than I am; or when I use his name to validate what I say, when it is actually my opinion that I have to say?

Do I make space, real space, for God, for myself and for those I love?  Or am I busy cramming my life with things that don’t really matter?

Do I truly respect those that I should?  Those who have experience and wisdom that I don’t?  Those who have sacrificed much for me and cared for me?

Of course I’ve never murdered anyone, but have I done and said things that have made people die on the inside?  Have I wished ill of people?

Am I faithful?  Do I always give the honour that is due?  Am I focussed, or do other things distract me?

I may not commit robbery, but do I look for short-cuts, loopholes or the cheapest rather than the best way?  Do I take others time, take them and all they offer for granted?  Am I looking for an easy ride through life, or willing to give as much as I get?

Am I honest in character?  Do I stretch the truth when it suits me?  Avoid the question?

Am I easily jealous, wanting what others have?  Thinking it will answer my problems?

There is so much I do that I shouldn’t do, and don’t do that I should…

Lord,
I come before you in shame,
in penitence,
to say that I am truly sorry.
My life is not what you would have it be,
I have not lived as the person you called me to be,
I have got some things very wrong
As I think of the ashes,
the dirt and the dust,
I see the darkness in my life;
I rub my hands in it
and see and feel the stain
Forgive me,
I pray.
Thank you
that you promise forgiveness
and give it freely.
This day may I go,
marked by you,
forgiven,
restored
and free
in and through
your love

Spring cleaning

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.

Pancakes came from the tradition of giving something up for Lent.  Eating pancakes was the way to get rid of all those things that you would give up – so that they weren’t in the cupboard tempting you.

I’m not a huge fan of giving something up for Lent – I prefer to take something useful on.  But it is important I think to take the opportunity to take time and reflect, and see what God is saying to us, where he is leading us. Whether we give something up for Lent or not, it is no bad thing to have the ‘spring clean’, to look in the cupboards of our lives and see what is there, and what should be there.

When I went to my cupboard to get out the ingredients for the pancakes, I found that my flour was actually out of date anyway.  I needed to get it out of my cupboard and get rid of it.  A good root through the cupboards also reminds us of the things that are missing.  My husband asked where the marmalade was – I was sure there was some in the cupboard, but there wasn’t – some more needed to be bought.  And you never know just what you might find!  Right at the back of the cupboard, hidden in a corner were some chocolates left over from Christmas – a treat waiting to be found.  Taking a good look lets you know where you are.

The same applies with our lives if we take a look through them.  We may find things that would be better not there.  We may discover some things are missing, and be able to put it right.  And we might find some good things that we had forgotten about.  We won’t know if we don’t take that time to stop and look.

Lent is traditionally a time to prepare for Easter.  Methodist Worship Book, in it’s pre-amble in the service for Ash Wednesday says…

Sisters and brothers in Christ, since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. It is the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and self-denial.

At first, this season of Lent was observed by those being prepared for Baptism at Easter and by those seeking restoration to the Church’s fellowship. In the course of time, all Christians were invited to keep these days carefully, to take to heart the call to repentance, to receive the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel, and so to grow in faith and devotion to our Lord.

In the name of Christ, therefore, I invite you to observe this holy season of Lent, by prayer, self-denial and charitable giving; by self-examination and repentance; and by reading and meditating on God’s word. (p141)

Lent remembers the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness.  Preparing for his future, working out who and what his priorities were – and then he could go and do what he needed to, what he was called to.    It was for him, a time of contemplation, reflection and preparation.  Lent, then offers to us the same opportunity of contemplation, reflection and preparation.  An opportunity to join with Jesus on his retreat, if we wish to take it as such.  We too can take the opportunity to spend that time with God, looking at our lives and looking to our future.  Strengthened for the journey ahead, getting ready for Easter and the new life of spring.

In the Early Church, the focus of Lent was to:

  • A time for new converts to prepare for their baptism – on Easter Day.  To have intensive classes and teaching, before their important step.  In about AD 350, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem told those about to be baptized, “You have a long period of grace, forty days for repentance.”
  • It was time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to Christ.  By the time of Augustine, Lent had become a time of preparation for all Christians, baptized or not, in that “part of the year…adjoining and touching with the Passion”
  • It was time for backsliders to be restored to the faith – remembering always that Easter signifies the possibility of new life for everyone.

From his time alone, Jesus went to begin the task God had called him to – to call the people to repent.  Spending time alone with God, not only gives us the space to think, but also the strength to respond.

My old computer used to  flash up with a message, “Low resources”.  There was not enough power in the computer to do all the things I was trying to do on it.  Lent is a time to take a check on our spiritual resources – to recharge our spiritual batteries.  Jesus’ time with God was his resource.  Our time with God can be our resource.  Yes there may be lots to do, but aren’t they done better having spent some time allowing God to fill us and equip us?

Time with God is precious – he wants to challenge us and empower us – but it needs us to be close enough for us to do it.

So whether we are familiar with a Lenten observance or not, it does us no harm – and a lot of good – to take some time to be with God.  To reflect on our lives, taking the time to work through where our certainties and our loyalties lie; to bring to God our confession, to seek his forgiveness and seek to turn our lives in the direction he asks us.