Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Between the Panes: Ash Wednesday and Lenten Reflections

The Cold Pane by Wendell Berry
Between the living world
And the world of death
Is a clear, cold pane;
A man who looks too close
Must fog it with his breath,
Or hold his breath too long.

We come to this season of lent in a spirit of grief. We enter with an attitude of lament. We begin a season of confession and repentance. But what does that all mean. If we are honest, many of us hesitate during this season and it makes us uneasy, uncomfortable, and discontent. We like control, we prefer stability, and confession hints that we are all in need of deliverance. Still, we are like this man, peering closely through that cold window, caught in between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

So it says in Genesis, in the beginning God created, and God said it was good. And God created humanity in God’s image…So it says in the final book of Revelation, See God is making all things new…But we are here, in between, and not everything appears good. All things are not new.


It doesn’t take a skilled theologian, an educated seminarian, or an eloquent pastor to notice that the world is not the way it should be. Poverty. Disease. Famine. Pollution. Earthquakes. Depression. Unemployment. Insufficient healthcare. Strained and broken marriages. Wars that appear to have no end.


If we are honest, we need this season of Lent. We are desperate for it because the world is not as it should be. You and I are not as we should be. The image we were all created in and the good creation itself have become distortions of their divine intentions.

This season of Lent is the occasion to embrace repentance and confession, not so much as reinforcements of guilt, but in order to change our minds about what we consider good, to recover our imaginations that have been trained only to think according to the systems and structures of culture, and to grieve that which weighs us down and distorts the life we were all created for and the union with God to which we are all destined. Ultimately, the season of Lent moves us to a recovery of the story of creation that begins with God creating all things as good and culminates in the resurrection begun in Jesus.

So it says in Genesis, in the beginning God created, and God said it was good. And God created humanity in God’s image…So it says in the final book of Revelation, See God is making all things new…But we are here, in between, and not everything appears good. All things are not new.


And this is where Jesus meets us at the table, in the middle, in between the window panes. A reminder that God has not abandoned or forsaken God’s image bearers in God’s good creation. Instead, God has offered God’s very self in the person of Jesus, who became broken for you and I and the whole world. As we come to the table, we are reminded that repentance prepares us to receive Jesus’ invitation to resurrection; confession enables us to be honest and able participants in Jesus’ mission to and for the world; Lent invites us to change our minds of what is good and moves us towards Easter and the resurrection celebration with new understandings of what it means to be fully human. It is then that we not only peer through the window, but open it and climb out.
Amen

A homily I delivered in an Ash Wednesday service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2010.

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