Our Lenten Journey

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins my favorite season. I am still surprised by the gift of it, having come into acquaintance with Lent not through my family of origin, but gradually, after leaving home. Anticipation of Lent is vulnerable and exciting; what does the Lord have in store this year? For me it is always different—sometimes adding a discipline, or trading a habit for a new practice.

One year I did the five Tibetan yoga poses each morning to the rhythm of Hear O Israel…. And once I gave up, for a whole forty days, being angry at my spouse for being late. Who knew that was possible? One season I got up at 5:30 each morning to translate a Psalm a day from Italian to English. (And, no, I don’t really know Italian.)

These past several days as Ash Wednesday approached, I’ve asked with eagerness and trepidation (please don’t let it be too hard!), what is it this year, Lord? What gift will I spend the next forty days unwrapping?

A friend once commented on the communal nature of Advent, versus what has culturally been a more individualistic focus of Lent. Her gentle (and right-on-target) insight was that I preferred Lent because I like doing my own thing. So I was challenged by Broderick Greer’s Ash Wednesday video Rend, which reflects on the idea that God desires the rending of a community’s heart, rather than individual piousness.

Today’s passage in Joel 2 is about communal repentance and return to the Lord:

Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and the nursing infants.
~ Joel 2:16

Lent is about community, not isolation. This resonates with my new identity as pastor, where so much at New Covenant is about nurturing and attending to relationships and connection. So I was not surprised to hear that my journey this season is to read about the experiences of LGBTQ Christians in churches. And to participate in, and encourage others to attend, a community sing-along hosted by several predominantly black churches in our town. To promote reconciliation and restored relationships in ever widening circles of friendship, church family, and community.

What will be your Lenten journey this year? How will the call to return to the Lord with all our hearts connect you to your community? How will we experience God’s Spirit being poured out on all flesh? May our Lenten journeys bring us closer together, that as a community we would return and draw nearer to the Lord, who is:

merciful and compassionate,
very patient,
full of faithful love,
and ready to forgive.

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