Reflecting on Lent today, I found myself thinking of living life, each day, every day, moment by moment, action by action. Until a few years ago I did not know what Lent was. Growing up in a Pentecostal Church and then 10 years in a Baptist Church, Lent was not a part of our teachings or traditions. As social media became more prevalent I saw friends giving up things for Lent. You can Google ‘Top 10 Things to Give up for Lent’ and find some great, beneficial and even interesting, ideas. Typically I see: Sweets in general, Chocolate, Alcohol, TV, and now the ever popular, Social Media.
A few years ago, I attended an Ash Service at Luther Memorial Church in Broadview with my friend, Maggie. It was my first year going to a service, receiving ashes, and giving something up for Lent. The previous year, I read up on Lent and spent time exploring the story of Easter in the bible. This year my focus will be on giving up what I am holding on to. Most likely not tangible possession, although I did post a few things on ‘Buy Nothing’ just this afternoon, so that may play a role as well. More importantly, thoughts I am holding on to, irritations, opinions, attitudes, worries and fears. Troubles from the past, the present and things to come that I cannot predict or control. Things that have happened whose ill effects linger still, bearing weight upon my heart, these too I shall let go.
Today as I sat thinking about Lent and reading my Bible I decided I would go to the service in my neighborhood once again. I carried with me no expectation other than for the service to set my mind and heart on the upcoming Easter holiday. As I walked up the street the darkness covering my view of what lingered above and beyond the trees, I felt the cool mist in the air about me settle on my skin. Silence surrounded me, other than the clomping of my boots on the wet pavement. I saw my daughter’s car in her driveway and decided to knock and see if she would join me.
We walked together the short two blocks to the church and found our way in (after asking a woman for directions as to where to enter). There was an NA meeting about to start in the lobby of the church. The room they will meet in is under construction. We found it was necessary to walk right through their meeting as we entered and later, as we left. The solid wood doors to the sanctuary were closed. I reached out to pull one open. Our ears greeted by the low tones of a lone cello lovingly stroked by the bow held in hand. Candles lit. Participants sat, two in this row, five in that row, one in the last. We took a seat amongst them. The clergy and her assistant sat up front, robes reaching the floor, resting on their shoes. The cellist along with the pianist painting a picture with melody and harmony.
The service, ritualistic in nature, soothed my soul as my spirit was drawn into reflection of what Christ did. I responded as directed by the pamphlet given to us after we had sat down by the lone man in the last row. Later we would find he, and the five sitting together, along with the clergy, were the choir which would sing at the end. We listened to scripture, sang along with the hymns, soaked in the Homily (message), confessed our sins and sought forgiveness, before receiving the ashes.
Reminded we are dust and to dust we shall return. A cross gently drawn on our foreheads by the clergy and her assistant. We agreed in prayer for others near and far, a song of thanks rang out. After a final prayer from the clergy we were given communion. I dipped the wafer placed in my hand into the cup of wine. Words were spoken, I do not recall. I nodded and partook of the emblems. My heart in tune to the meaning. The bread, His body, broken for my sins. The price, the penalty He paid for me. His blood, shed, covered, cleansed me from all unrighteousness. Washing me white as snow in His Father’s eyes. For this, I am ever grateful.
The choir sang as the five of us left in our seats looked upon, listening to their voices in unity, in harmony, sing of His wondrous love for us. The song ended. The clergy stepped out a side door into the unknown. All was silent. We looked about, and then down at our pamphlet.
As the service ends, you are invited to visit a pastoral prayer station for individual prayer, remain in the worship space in meditation and reflection, or go in peace.
Peace be with you.
And also with you.