Today is the first day of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday.
Its a snowy, dreary day that has been filled with a blizzard of mixing ice and snow, filling the streets and sidewalks with inches of slush to make your way through if you're brave enough to be out in it.
Because of this snow, many churches in the area canceled their evening Ash Wednesday service. At Holy Covenant, we did not, as it didn't make sense to when the pastor lives only upstairs and the interns didn't have to drive in (thankful for public transport- trains- on days like this!). So we continued with our service, singing a capella because our musician couldn't make it in the snow. It was peaceful, reflective, beautiful, and just what I needed.
Until this evening, I struggled with the fact that its already Lent. It seems so early, I feel so distant from it. I'm not ready for the struggle and reflection and all that comes with this season. I hadn't even decided "where I am" in terms of what may be best for me to "give up" or "take on" as my own sacrifice this season.
Tonight, that changed. I was blessed by the music, message, readings and prayers that were offered. I was blessed by the full community of people who knew that church is where they needed to be on this holy night... one of the only Christian holidays, Trey pointed out, that isn't made into a big affair by Hallmark. I think we often forget- because Hallmark isn't there to remind us, what an important holy day it is, though. There is no commercialism to help us "prepare" for the season. There is no preparation, it just arrives. At least thats how it felt for me this year. Especially after a big "Mardi Gras" celebration at church Sunday, on campus last night... celebrating with festivities just before entering this season of reflection has proven itself a challenging transition for me this year. And I sense that many others share that with me.
This service helped me to transition into a different place, and for that I am thankful. I have some things to pray about yet tonight before any decisions are made, but I am looking forward to beginning a new season tomorrow. Praying and repenting for the reality of not being ready on time- not anything unusual from where I (we?) often find myself/ourselves.
The past 2 years I have given up "inessential beverages" - everything but water- for Lent. I have done so with purpose, as a kind of extended "Two Week Sacrifice" to raise funds for water wells in communities that don't even have the most basic essential of life: clean water. A week ago, I was convinced I wasn't called to do that this year. I didn't follow it today. But now, I'm not so sure. After thinking about during the service, reflecting on how I learn and grow from that experience, I came home to check my email and find this article in my email. A blog written to challenge us to do that very same thing this year that I have done the past two years. A challenge I believe I needed to see tonight, in that very moment it came to me.
I have determined it is best not to make any decisions on where this season is leading me until morning, after I can pray and reflect on it further. After all, that is what this season is about. But whatever I decide, I am thankful tonight for the transition that I finally feel, that I have finally been offered, that I am finally a part of where Christ (or at least the Church) is calling us to be at this time of year. There is a time and a season for everything... and this season is one to repent, reflect, and to seek new ways of living. As I struggle through this season of transition and sacrifice, I hope you will struggle with me, and in the end, we will come away from this season changed, renewed, refreshed and alive, celebrating the new life and hope that only Christ can offer us.