Today marks the start of the 40-Day period of reflection and repentance known as Lent. This morning, as part of our staff prayer, we received the mark of ashes on our foreheads as a symbol of repentance. Commenting on this, Marianne (our school’s Director of Spirituality) summed up the Lenten experience with one word: Wilderness. Whether we think of wilderness as a time of testing, a time of retreat, or a time of journey, it describes what Lent means to the millions of Christians who observe this season each year.
Lent is a time to confess our sins. It’s also a time to “go deep” into our lives as we reflect on what our sins may look like. They may not all be obvious on the surface. In fact, Brian McLaren writes that we may be blind to many ingrained (or inherited) sins:
This blindness (itself a kind of social sin) explains why in many churches in my childhood, people could passionately confess certain personal sins (within polite categories) – dishonesty, greed, jealousy, and so on – but remain absolutely oblivious to our racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, environmental irresponsibility, homophobia, nationalism and denominational pride – not to mention the sins of our ancestors that created structures of privilege that we took for granted. (from Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words. HarperOne, 2011, Chapter 9)
It may be that we haven’t even seriously considered that certain thoughts, actions, ways of speaking about others, or prejudices could be sin. Be honest: If we consider something sin, then it means this too must be acknowledged, confessed, repented of, and forsaken–and we may not wish to forsake certain sins . . . so we ignore them, or make excuses for them: “My family has always thought this way,” “I can’t help it,” “That’s just who I am.”
Lent is a time in which we invite God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to be our companion in the wilderness, journeying with us, conversing with us (are we listening?), and changing us to be more like we were created to be.
What does Lent mean for you?
Is there one word which would sum up your journey during this time?
I close with two prayers: one being the Collect for Ash Wednesday and the second being a prayer of repentance.
Almighty and everlasting God
You hate nothing that you have made
And forgive the sins of all who are penitent.
Create and make in us new hearts
That, lamenting our sins
And acknowledging our helplessness,
We may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
Perfect forgiveness and peace;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Who is alive and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit;
One God, now and forever.
Father Eternal, giver of light and grace,
We have sinned against you and against our neighbour
In what we have thought,
In what we have said and done
Through ignorance, through weakness,
Through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love
And marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed
And repent of our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
Forgive all that is past;
And lead us from darkness to walk as children of light.