Ash Wednesday Reflection
“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
It’s been a 48 hours of abrupt transitions for me I’ll tell you. And today, Ash Wednesday, is a rather abrupt change for you too. 48 hours ago I was enjoying 80 degree weather, fishing for barracuda and jacks, and snappers and sharks for 3 days in Key West Florida for some late winter R + R. And then I came home to minus 3 here in the frozen food section of New Hampshire!
And here, in the midst of a prolonged cold spell of soul numbing proportion, here comes Ash Wednesday and the sometimes soul stretching/sometimes soul wrenching season of Lent. It’s an abrupt transition – but it is ultimately a very freeing transition if you will but give it a good, faithful try. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” That’s what the Bible says.
In a very few minutes I, as Priest, will, in the name of the Church, invite you to the observance of a Holy Lent. A Holy Lent. It is a period of weeks leading up to Easter Day when you are asked to level with God – to be honest to God – to name those people to God who you need to forgive. (Not who you want to forgive but who you need to forgive.) To be honest to God. – To ask God to forgive you every single thing you need to be forgiven for – everything – clean it out inside O Lord - – MAKE FRESH ROOM DOWN DEEP / ALL THE WAY FOR LOVE ITSELF TO MOVE IN AND TAKE UP RESIDENCE. Yes let your heart be Love’s permanent address come the day of Resurrection, come Eastertide.
As I said to my old friend, the fishing guide, the other night when we were talking after dinner and he was saying how lately he’d been beating himself up about some of the choices he had made in the past – and how he was worrying lately about how what he had done in the past might impact his future, I told him hey, turn that stuff over to God now. – Now is the time to shovel that stuff out, honest to God, and know that it is how you walk from this time forward that will make all the difference – from this day – forward – forward.
As the blessing for the ashes to be imposed on our foreheads says so well, “let these ashes be to us a sign of our penitence,that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.”
Today, however abruptly, we begin to transition from what has been to what can be with God’s gift – with God’s help and forgiveness and through God’s belief in you, belief that led Christ to the cross for you and for the world. With an honest approach, this Lent may just turn out to be the most graceful, freeing season of inward nourishment and cleansing and spiritual growth you have yet to experience.
In this week of cold at home and threats of war abroad, may God create a clean heart within you and renew a fresh spirit among us all, the hundreds of millions worldwide observing the start of Lent today.
For the Lord IS full of compassion and mercy…. And you and I are called to let God restore us from the inside out, and , along the way, reward us for quietly practicing our piety and faithfully going about the business of letting God accomplish in us, the work of salvation. Now that’s a warm transition that cannot come too soon. Amen