Mardi Gras. The very threshold of Lent.
But first, a few reminders…
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Ash Wednesday. While we can’t worship with ashes and Holy Communion as we usually do, we can still worship!
OPPORTUNITY #1 – Parking lot Ashes and Holy Communion
7:30-8:45 AM or 5:15-6:30 PM
Bring bread and grape juice (or wine). In a short five minute worship, receive the imposition of ashes, and celebrate Holy Communion. You stay in your car, nice and warm!
Then, receive a small “kiss” of God’s grace as a gift, and a few other goodies.
And finally, bring a non-perishable food item to share with the food pantry.
OPPORTUNITY #2 – Watch for our YouTube worship, posted to the web site (home page and video page) by later afternoon on Wednesday. A hint – have a small bowl of water handy!
OPPORTUNITY #3 – A special bonus – we have a message from our Interim Bishop Chris Boerger, which we have fashioned into a “just less than 15 minute” devotional. Check that out early Wednesday morning. The link again is on the web site.
Lots of opportunities as move into Lent. But why? Why bother if we can’t be together in worship anyway? (Watch the March newsletter for more information about our plans to reopen safely…when it’s safe! We’re working on it!)
Lent is part of the rhythm of faith. We wear ashes, change the paraments in church to purple, stop using “alleluia” (as of tomorrow), and sing somber songs. Mardi Gras is the tradition of having one last blast before all that.
But while all of that may (or may not) support our faith, that’s not what faith is about. Faith is about something more basic and fundamental..and something wet. It’s about what (or who) we hang on to…and about knowing what (or who) hangs on to us. Especially this year.
In Lent we reflect on who (and what) we really are. We acknowledge, sometimes with great pain, that we aren’t what we want to be, and in fact, aren’t what we even think we are. Every day we wrestle with a basic human instinct to get what we want, and to get it our own way. Or, in other words, to be the authority, the boss, the ruler of my little corner of the world. That’s bad enough. But when you happen to venture into my space, my wants and my desires rule over yours. And that makes me the god of my realm – my own self to be god of me…and of you!
So there you go – I’m god. And I’m going to hang on to that, and all the power I imagine that it gives me.
But what does that get me? I imagine it gives me a better and fuller life. After all, isn’t the essence of happiness getting what I want?
The problem is that I don’t get what I really want. I want life. Yet, being in charge, being god, only gives me more of me. More of my uncertainties, fears, and anxieties. Not to mention my failures, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and brokenness. My mistakes and my “oops,” and yes, my sins.
Not a pretty sight, and to be brutally honest, not much life!
In Lent I “fess up,” and acknowledge all of that. I want to be god, and I want to be the source of life, at least for myself. Yet, again and again, I find myself wanting. It just isn’t there. It just doesn’t work. Again and again!
But Lent is more than a “feel bad” time. Lent is also about what I (spoiler alert) and someone else, does about it.
Lent calls us to repent. No, not just way we are sorry, but to turn, to change. To go in a new direction. Lent reminds us that words need actions. We don’t just say we are sorry – we seek out a new way of living. We discover that we can let go of our desire to be god, and let God be God.
Or at least we can try. We can try to change (and we should try), but we also discover that human instinct is stronger than us. We can try, but we also fail. Again and again.
So Lent becomes a discipline. Like an athlete who constantly trains, we do too. And not just for the 40+ days of Lent. It’s about living wet (remember that?) It’s about living out…(wait for it)…our baptism!
It’s about baptism because baptism is not just about getting splashed with water. Baptism is about the promise that God makes to us, the promise that in the end life does not come from being god, or even from trying to do what God wants. Life comes as a gift…from God!
As we journey through Lent we keep our eyes on God’s work in our world, and most especially in the person of Jesus…the cross of Good Friday…and the empty tomb of Easter. Where God reaches into our world, takes from us our brokenness, vulnerabilities, failures, sinfulness (and all the rest of that), and instead embraces us. That is where life is granted, nourished, and sustained.
In Lent we see what we thought we were going to be, and we acknowledge that the road we are on is not only a dead end, it’s the way of non-life, the way…of death.
But we also see where we are heading, to the cross, to the tomb, to the gift of life that transcends our brokenness, failure, and sinfulness. All while we are in the embrace of a gracious God.
And this year, more than ever, this is what we need to hear. In the midst of Covid, and the disruptions it has caused, we are more vulnerable, and perhaps even more aware of our vulnerabilities. Yet, Lent reminds us that life is not about us, it is about what God is up to. (Another spoiler alert – watch our midweek Lenten worship as a variety of folk reflect on where they God at work, even in troubled times.)
So as this day unfolds, celebrate Mardi Gras as you wish. Have a good one!
But on Wednesday, take a look around at what you are and are not. Acknowledge stuff you’d rather not even see. But also begin to celebrate life. Not life as you would have it, but as God has it – full, rich, in abundance, a gift of grace. Life in Jesus, the crucified and risen one.