The Fifty-Third Day of 2023

Gentle Reader,

Most of us are under pressure, external and internal, to do everything, be good at everything, be accountable to everyone for everything! It is not so. In the divine economy each of us has a particular grace, gift and devotion. Finding out what that is, and learning how to be guilt-free about not doing everything else, may be part of what our Lenten journey is for.

Malcolm Guite

Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. Today the Church turns the calendar page from so-called ordinary time and remembers again that she is dust and to dust she shall return. Forty days of slowing down, letting go, reflecting on why we needed Christ to come and save us.

I didn’t follow the Church calendar until very recently. I became aware of it at some point in the past, but the cycles and seasons and colors just didn’t seem important. I didn’t understand why we needed sacred time. And to be sure, you don’t have to participate in Lent or any other Church season in order to be a Christian.

But I’m finding it helps.

There’s something about the regular routine, the constant call to remember. To hear and learn, again and again. To immerse ourselves in the rhythms of the great salvation epic. To consciously choose to order our lives around God.

Many people around the world today will attend a simple, solemn service. I am among them. Tonight I will join my congregation in remembering that the world is not as it should be and only Jesus can make it right again. As a part of the pastoral staff at my church, I will lead a responsive reading and invite those present into a space of repentance. I will be marked with an ashy cross on my forehead.

None of this is magic.

None of this is required for relationship with God.

But it’s good to pause. To take a breath. To remember.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.

– Psalm 51:7-15 (MSG)


Image Courtesy of Annika Gordon


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