Lent started on Ash Wednesday, March 1. It was a dark blustery night. Lightning and thunder and rain were our gifts for the evening. I laughingly said that I had ordered that setting for Ash Wednesday; however, you have to admit that Lightning and thunder and rain were appropriate for the beginning of Lent.
On Ash Wednesday, we talk about the two these of the season and of that night: our sin and our mortality. Talk about those two things will most assuredly bring a crowd. But, where else are you going to hear the truth except in church. Here in church, we are invited and are free to confess our sin before God and in each other's presence. Our common sin is the same. As Lucy said to Charlie Brown when she discovered that the earth revolved around the sun, "Huh! I thought the world revolved around me!"
As one of my teachers used to say, sin means that we strut around here as if we own the place. We treat the world and creation as if we owned it. We treat each other as if we were the owners of all that is good and noble and everyone else is ignorant and less good than we. The hymn says it so well: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love!". Prone to wander about all over the place; prone to wander after other gods and other ways. Prone to leave the God I love.
I grieves God that we so readily turn from him and away from his gifts. Salvation is when we trust God in Jesus Christ to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all wrongness. At Lent, we confess our sin, we ask forgivesness and we turn around and move back to God. You wouldn't thing that we would forget so easily who God is, would you? But we forget before the next Sunday.
Lent starts with the stark realization that we are sinners. And, we die. This life as we know it comes to an end. Time runs out on all our projects and all our dreams. Sure, we know Easter's coming, but how poor we are if we don't at some point acknowledge that our life is but a "span". It is all a gift and then it goes so fast that we hardly know it. Regrets? Sure, but why waste time on that? Receive each day, each moment, as if it were your last, because one day, it will be. Death has come for many of our loved ones sooner than we wanted. Certainly, it has come sooner than we expected. Sometimes death tears at us with tragedy. Death strips our pretense and our smugness away. In it's wake, we come to God in our vulnerability. All salvation is in God; all salvation comes from Jesus.
So, on Ash Wednesday, we ran by the altar, and got marked on the forehead with a cross in ashes to remind us all this. In this sober way, we started Lent together. And, we are invited to give more, to worship more, to love more, to get ready for what's coming.
The church has long tried to teach us that you can't get to Easter without going through and by the cross, through Lent. Jesus will be crucified and die for your sins. See it. Experience it anew. And wait to see what God will do. We're half way through or so. Look around to see what God is calling you to do right here, right now! It's all a gift.