Friends in Christ, today with the whole church we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.
We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and for God’s mercy. We are created to experience joy in communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent— self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love— strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection. —“Invitation to Lent” from ELW Ash Wednesday Service.
The Season of Lent begins on March 6th with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a special service where we receive a cross of ashes with these words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent smacks us in the face with this reminder of our mortality. But, this dust can also connect us to creation, for it is from the dust of the ground that Adam is formed. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And he was alive!
The Invitation to Lent invites us to pick up the lenten discipline—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. These disciplines invite us to strengthen our relationship with God by setting aside those things that may distract us from truly listening to God’s voice.
As I wrote about last month, I’m inviting you to participate in “ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving”. At the steps to the sanctuary is a devotional booklet that you can use as part of this program. We will be printing additional stories in the bulletins in the weeks of Lent. And, I invite you to consider fasting (I wrote about fasting in last month’s Evangel.) Fasting can connect us to those throughout our world and our nation who face chronic hunger and starvation. According to World Bank estimates, 736 million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day. The 40 days of Giving challenge suggests putting $2 a day in your jar. This should be sacrificial giving which is above and beyond your typical offerings. There are labels that you can place on a jar along with the devotional booklets at the base of the stairs.
My hope is that the discipline of Lent will help you focus a little more on all that God has done for you.