Many things in this universe come in cycles and we often find ourselves back in a place that feels like somewhere we’ve been before. Every day, we repeat the ritual of washing our hands. Every week, we repeat the ritual of worshipping together on Sunday. Every month, we repeat the ritual of turning the page on a calendar. Every year, we repeat the rituals of birthdays and anniversaries and holidays. On a less regular schedule, we repeat a cycle of welcoming God into our lives and then nudging God aside when we are distracted by idols and temptations. We repeat a cycle of hurting each other and having to find the courage to admit it and the grace to apologize for it and the conviction to do things differently next time. We repeat a cycle of being caught up in the excitement of this world and then taking a step back and suddenly feeling the sorrow and longing that is always around us.
We aren’t always at the same point in these cycles at the same time. The strength of a community lies in our ability to lift each other up when some of us are in high places and others are low.
For everything, there is a season and the season we are about to step into is Lent, a time when we all come together to recognize (no matter where we are individually) that many of us are stuck in a place where we’d rather not be, in cycles we can’t escape, in the darkness of sin or doubt or grief that we can’t see past. For everything, there is a season, and in the cycle of the church year, there are seasons of rejoicing and growing and and singing alleluia, but in the season of Lent, there is a long tradition of not singing or saying the word “alleluia,” which means “praise God” because we’ve set time apart to instead say “I’m sorry” and “what do I need to do differently?”.
Lent is part of the rhythm of the church year: Christ comes and we rejoice, but soon enough, we sin and turn away from God. Christ comes again, rising from the dead, and we rejoice again, but then, again, we sin and turn away from God. The pattern is as sure and steady as our own heartbeat, but again and again, God offers us more love and grace than we know what to do with. In this season of separation and uncertainty, it is reassuring to know that there is something in this universe that will never change. As we prepare this week to worship from home on Ash Wednesday, I invite you to gather together a candle and something to light it with, some paper and something to write with, and a way to get your hands dirty—whether that’s with ashes from a fireplace, a burnt cork, some dark eyeshadow, a stick of charcoal, fingerpaint, a bowl of dirt, or something else. It is said that sacraments, like baptism, are visible signs of invisible grace, reminding us of the abundant blessings that God showers on us. Sometimes, we need to look at visible signs of invisible sin and pain because sometimes, it can be all too easy to ignore what we can’t see, even when it’s right in front of us, smudging everything we touch.
Very important public safety announcement: if you are playing with ashes at home, do not mix them with water. Mixing ashes with water creates lye and lye will burn your skin. Only touch ashes dry or mixed with a little bit of oil. Do not mix them with water.
Daily Prayers for Lent by Rev. Sarah Are | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org
Ash Wednesday, February 17: Teaching God, you remind us to avoid going through the motions on autopilot so that we can engage our faith with our whole hearts. You’re worth our whole hearts. So today I pray: Be there in my fasting. Be there in my praying. Be there in my walking and waking. Make this journey real. Make it rich. Make it yours. Amen.
Thursday, February 18: God of tomorrow, brokenness weighs on us. No one is left untouched. And so we lift our eyes to you, dreaming of the day when love is all we carry. Give us the strength to be those who dream—today and tomorrow. Amen.
Friday, February 19: Inviting God, you are a God who is up to something good, always thinking of you ahead, always inviting us to join. So spark curiosity in me today so that I might ask, “Where are you going? I want to tag along.” Amen.
Saturday, February 20: Gracious God, being people of faith has never been easy. From the very beginning, we have needed reminders—to be gentle, to show courtesy, to devote ourselves to good works. In a world of division, help me be gentle. May that gentleness be a power for good. Amen.