With the memory of last night’s smudge of ashes upon our foreheads, we have begun our journey into Lent. As the days lengthen into spring we are invited to reflect upon our humanity: our frailty and fallibility, our need for repentance and forgiveness.
Yesterday’s school shooting, which left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., etched into our souls an even deeper Lenten yearning for repentance. God does not want us to live in fear of our children being shot when they go to school. God does not will random violence. In Jesus Christ, God took on everything that makes us human, even unto death, so that we may be raised to new life and participate in a kingdom known by love, justice, peace and abundant life for all.
The season of Lent calls us to an intentional time of self-examination in order to increase our awareness of God and deepen our faith as we prepare to receive the amazing gifts of Easter: new life, redeemed life, power and energy for mission. And as a Christian community, we are also called to a corporate life of confession and redemption in order that together we might practice resurrection.
Hoping to nurture both our individual and corporate faith, this Sunday I will begin a Lenten sermon series, Journey with Jesus. We will follow the gospel readings appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary which will lead us alongside Jesus as he goes about his work and ministry and his own steely preparation to face the cross and crucifixion. My prayer is that by following Jesus’ journey we will discover his companionship in ours.
Jill Duffield, my good friend, former pastoral colleague at my last church, and now editor of The Presbyterian Outlook, wrote a prayer for Ash Wednesday which puts our journey with Jesus in the context of prayer:
As we journey through these 40 Lenten days, may the relentless gift of the Holy Spirit drive us where we most need to go to follow Christ more closely. If we find ourselves in the wilderness, afraid and tempted, deliver us from evil and send angels to tend to us. When we doubt and turn back, fall asleep and deny, forgive us as Christ forgave those who knew not what they did. If we succumb to our basest instincts, bullying and taunting any of your beloved children, stop us cold, remove the scales from our eyes and make of us new creations in Christ, eager to imitate the One with whom you are well pleased.
As we journey with Jesus and his disciples through Galilee and toward Jerusalem, I pray that God will indeed “remove the scales from our eyes and make of us new creations in Christ.”