Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thoughts for Ash Wednesday

Dan Whitmarsh questions the need for Ash Wednesday and Lent in his blog entry, "Ashes to Ashes."
Here is my response:

We live among a people who have forgotten the importance of time, who live neither in chronos nor kairos but who fixate upon the moment and present experience. It seems to me that the Church Year offers a corrective to this sort of myopia. The point of the Church calendar is to bring us in step with Christ.

Thus, Lent is a season for us to remember that Christ came not for the healthy but for the sick; not for the righteous but for sinners. (Luke 5:31-32). In receiving the ashes we confess that we are sinners, and that we look to Christ to transform us.

I agree, Lent is not a time to preach that we are worms, nor is it an excuse to "slide into low self-esteem Christianity." Rather, it is a time for reflection and renewal, lamenting the sins we still need to be forgiven for, and preparing for the Final and Greatest Party of all. God wants to throw that party, and He wants to clean us up for it so that we will be able to fully focus on the festivities, without any distractions.

A Hymn to God the Father

John Donne (1572-1631)

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more
So yes, chronologically we stand on this side of Easter; but biblically we are called not simply to live in chronos but in Kairos. That is why we come to Lent the same way we come to the Table:

Come to this sacred table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come to testify not that you are righteous,
but that you sincerely love our Jesus Christ, and desire to be his true disciple;
Come not because you are strong, but because you are weak;
Come not because you have any claim on heaven's rewards,
but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of heaven's mercy and help;
Come not to express an opinion,
but to seek His Presence and pray for His Spirit.  
Just as I am. I come.

1 comment:

Janice Skivington said...

Hi Beth,
I wrote about Ash Wednesday on my blog also. After I read your post I wished I had been able to say it so well.
And the John Donne poem is so apt. I enjoy your blog and your thoughts are always interesting.