Pondering The WORD For Today

Weekly Reflection on Revised Common Lectionary Readings

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Create in Me… (Psalm 51) Text Description automatically generated

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, Wendy and I joined with other worshippers and colleagues as we gathered at St. Mary's Anglican Church in Warwick Parish Bermuda for Ash Wednesday imposition of the ashes service where we received a smear of cross shaped ashes on our foreheads. Barely two weeks later, COVID lockdowns swept across the globe, making that ash smear one of the last community actions many of us experienced person to person, skin to skin, before our long period of social distancing, mask wearing, remote virtual worship and worrying over case positivity rates. It's fitting, perhaps, that the words we heard as we receive the ashes "You are dust and to dust you shall return" reminding us of our mortality would be the setup for what has been an undaunted season highlighting our own vulnerability.

"The season of Lent, season of giving up something" begins the way it always does, with the joys and hopes of last year charred and burned. Lent always leans into the hope of renewal where what has been reduced to ashes will find new life. It's a great description of this moment in 2021 as we anticipate and hope for a world transformed by disease, death and destruction by entering a forty-day period of self-reflection, repentance, prayer, fasting and self-denial all preparation in anticipation of what is to come. Psalm 51 is the psalm most often read on Ash Wednesday. It"s a familiar picture of dust, disaster, and deceit which finds the Psalmist voicing a lament or complaint to God.

"Create in me" the Psalmist laments. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me- Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit" [from Psalm 51]

It is such a bold, courageous honest prayer of lament that contains all the promise we need to begin the process of reconciliation, renewal, and restoration Lent offers us.

I need a clean heart. Not just during Lent, but all the time. I need to put away old ways of thinking and acting that aren't good or helpful. I need to have my heart renewed with joy, peace, goodness. I need character restoration, soul rejuvenation, heart regalvanization.

Whatever the Lenten discipline we choose, let it be one of creating and cleansing, let it be a journey to freedom, not wallowing in doom and gloom but practicing justice and joy in connecting with God and one another, turning the cultural concept of giving something up for Lent into a meaningful act of devotion.

Because God creates in us a clean heart, a new and right spirit within us Because God restores to us the joy of salvation, sustaining in us a willing spirit Because God does not cast us away, or take God’s holy spirit from us we can hold steadfast, believing life is not just doom and gloom, or a dumpster fire of destruction and loss, but that there is something else, real beauty of resurrection, of rebirth emerging, rising from the ashes.

The calendar says winter, but soon it will be spring, the perfect metaphor for renewal and rebirth. The world is partly recreated each spring by the miracle of newness. Every spring I have to go no farther than my front window to see the miracle of newness. As plants spring into being from dry seeds, as winter comes to an end and spring explodes into visible life, as sunlight warms the earth into activity—even so is God able to create new life in our souls.

Lent always aims and points to resurrection, where the ashes serve as fertile soil, providing for roots to take hold and for good fruit bearing trees to grow and shine with God's light.

As we move through Lent may God re-create in you and in me.

Captain Mark