Welcome to Lent

Ash Wednesday Ushers In Lenten SeasonIt’s Ash Wednesday today.

It’s not a big event in the Evangelical Christian calendar and I never knew about it–let alone celebrated it–until I landed a job in an Anglican/Catholic school.

Now it has become part of my and my family’s yearly spiritual tradition (and yes, we do have pancakes for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday–but the day is more of an excuse to start our day with a sweet stack of carbs than anything else.)

I love the way our staff prayer (the Collect for Ash Wednesday) began this morning: “Almighty God, you hate nothing that you have made . . .” It’s an encouragement and a reminder that our God has a love for us and for all Creation that is overwhelming and everlasting.

I’ll leave it to Fr Richard Rohr to suggest an appropriate response:

The Jewish people have a beautiful prayer form, a kind of litany to which the response is always “Dayenu!” (It would have been enough!).

They list, one by one, the mirabilia Dei, the wonderful works of God for their people and themselves, and after each one, shout out DAYENU! As if to say, “How much is it going to take for us to know that God is with us?!” It builds satisfaction instead of feeding dissatisfaction.

If we begin our day with any notion of scarcity, not-enoughness, victimhood, or “I deserve,” I promise you the day will not be good–for you or for those around you. Nor will God be glorified.

Maybe we all should begin our days with a litany of satisfaction, abundance, and enoughness. God, you have given me another day of totally gratuitous life: my health, my eyes, my ears, my mind, my taste, my family, my freedom, my education, clean water, more than enough food, a roof over my head, a warm bed and blanket, friends, sunshine, a beating heart, and your eternal love and guidance.

To any one of these we must say, “And this is more than enough!”

As we embark on our Lenten journey, one of self-examination and following God in the way of Jesus, may we recognise daily God’s intrinsic goodness and gain a deeper appreciation for God’s love, grace, and peace which is even through this time being poured out on us all.

Dayenu.

To Lent or Not To Lent . . .

In an excellent article on Lent, The God Article looks at the practice of giving up something in honour of the sacrifice of Jesus. I have always been appreciative of the practice of self-sacrifice as a spiritual discipline, and I believe it is still a valuable part of the church’s (and the Christ-follower’s) year-long journey. However (and this is a major “however”), I feel, like prayer, giving and fasting, giving up something for Lent is something you do privately–something only yourself and God know. That is the critical difference between what is a path to spiritual awareness or growth and simply another New Year’s resolution.

“So, why are those kinds of things what we most frequently give up for Lent? I’d say it’s because the way we practice Lent has turned it into nothing more than a time for religious New Year’s resolutions. The timing is perfect too. We’ve had just enough time to not follow through on our actual New Year’s resolutions and to start feeling guilty about it. Lent gives us a second chance to not follow through… um, I mean succeed.” (Read the entire article here.)

So whether or not I choose to give up something for Lent, I won’t be publicising it. That will be a matter between God and me. Whatever I do, I know it won’t have any impact on the love God has for me or on God’s acceptance of me, so I will feel no guilt if I fail. Disappointment? Maybe. Shame? No. Because it’s not about perfection, but about a heart that is moving in the right direction.