Ash Wednesday. I wish I had gone to the service at my church over the noon hour, as I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service. But it was not to be. And so I find myself tonight longing to enter into the season of Lent in such a way as to know that I am walking alongside Jesus. What does it all mean? How can little ole me in my comfy, busy (perhaps manic), self-absorbed life understand and relate to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, where he fasted and faced the temptations Satan was only too eager to throw his way.
I should have prepared more. Looking up things about Lent tonight, I realized that in some scenarios, the feast from Panda Hut Express we had at our employee lunch today would have been a big no-no on this Ash Wednesday. It would have been totally appropriate yesterday, on Shrove Tuesday. Feasting on the day before the fast is to begin is the way to go. But as per usual, I am behind the 8-ball!
Looking into the scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary for this week, I dug into Joel 2:12-13 and found redemption:
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Yes, fasting is important. But on a simple reading of this scripture, it would seem the Lord’s top priority for me is to rend my heart, allow my heart to be torn open for his purposes, rather than for me to rend my garments, which would be more symbolic of rituals that represent brokenness to others. For sure there are holy rituals and holy ceremonies and these are precious and valuable and honourable.
But what I hear the Lord saying to me is:
“How’s your heart? Are you going to focus on a failure to rend your clothes? Or are you going to focus on following me? Return to me with all your heart. Fast with me. Weep with me. Mourn with me. We are going to go through something special together. Don’t beat yourself up about the rituals you miss. Follow me.”
N.T. Wright’s book The Day The Revolution Began is a great read for Lent as he reminds us of the true purposes of the cross.