Today begins the journey to the cross as we make our way through the 40 days of Lent. It is Ash Wednesday; the day we gather and have the sign of the cross marked on our forehead and hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Every time, I hear these words I am not only reminded of my own mortality but also the mortality of all those near and dear to me. The truth is that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace, and sometimes it is hard to offer that grace to others. Yet today reminds us that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”–Psalm 51:1-5
It’s hard to think that even as an infant I was born a sinner, but the truth is we are. We don’t always interpret our neighbors actions in the best possible light. We say things that we didn’t mean to say. We don’t always treat each other with respect and dignity. In all reality, we fail daily. During the 40 days of Lent, we are called to be relentless; to remember what this season is all about in the first place. God loved us so much that God sent God’s one and only son into the world for each and every one of us.
Clinging to the promise of the cross and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, I know that I/we are all forgiven. Through the waters of baptism, like Noah and the flood, we are washed clean and given a pure heart. Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness of sins and for a clean heart. And other times, it is almost impossible to ask for it because of an encounter with someone who is just being a jerk. In fact, some friends had this experience this morning as they were giving ashes to go in Baltimore.
“You desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me my wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out my transgressions. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you, Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.”–Psalm 51:6-14
A lot of people give up something for Lent or they take on a Lenten practice. For the last 5 plus years, I have prayed through my Facebook friends list. This year, I even offered to pray for Twitter friends that aren’t on Facebook. It is a way for me to remember the sacrifice Christ made for each of us. I am not always a good pray-er but taking on this Lenten discipline has helped me remember the joy and hope that comes in the promise of the Resurrection. But one cannot get to the cross without journeying through Ash Wednesday, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. I think of the many friends I prayed for in the midst of their pregnancies and how today, they are reminded once again of the mortality of each of us as they once again grieve their child/children. There is a relentlessness in Lent and the journey to the cross that reminds me that we are not on this journey of life alone. In fact, Jesus often gets down into the mud with us,
“O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burn offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”–Psalm 51:15-19
And so today, as we begin the journey to the cross, my heart, soul, and mind will relentlessly be wrapped up in Jesus and this very journey. Because the truth is I was not there when they crucified my Lord, but every day I am reminded of what happened to Jesus; being crucified by the Empire. Together, God calls us to remind each other of the harsh relentless reality of the cross. A harsh reality that calls us to see, hear, and experience the brutality of the cross and the love that God has for all of us.
Linking up with Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.