Wednesday, February 06, 2008

beauty for ashes

This is the time of tension between dying and birth...
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still...
And let my cry come unto Thee...
And pray to God to have mercy on us...
-T.S. Eliot, "Ash Wednesday"

i've never really experienced the depth of this day.
before, viewing it simply as some denomination's rituals and traditions, i now see that it is so much more.

this season is beautiful.

originating in the fourth century, lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized on easter. but since these new members were to be received into a living community of faith, the entire community was called to preparation. it was also a time when those who had been separated from the church would prepare to rejoin the community.

today, christians use this time for introspection, self-examination, and repentence, marked by prayer, fasting, and intentionally making time to reach out to others in need. (adapted from "The Seasons of Lent" by Dennis Bratcher)

i love that the church then was so serious about the gravity of baptism.

so serious that the whole body would rally around the ones who were to become Christ followers and join them in prayer and fasting.

that's a lovely picture of community.

the "man-made" lent season leads up to the most miraculously "God-made" event in history....
the death and resurrection of His son.

it is good that we should spend so much time in prayer and contemplation over this event.

as one of our pastors said this morning, lent is a time of confession and purification. all sins that the Lord will convict you of are meant to be confessed to Him. the bible also instructs us to confess to and pray for each other (james 5:16). how wonderful to find one or two trusted friends to practice this with starting now during lent if it's not already a habit.

it is a time to carefully listen to the things the Lord is revealing to you about sin in your life and areas of change.

but as you confess and drive out those sins and tendencies, replace them with the characteristics that are of Him.

replace vanity with renewed knowledge of your worth in Him
replace a feeling of security through money with the security we find in His promises and riches
replace greed with giving
replace gossip with prayer and encouragement
replace laziness with acts of love and mercy towards others
replace legalism with freedom in Christ
replace worry with trust

let us prepare to celebrate God's marvelous redemption at easter.

40 days...
of repentance.
of confession.
of fasting.
of wretchedness.
of humility.
of purification.
of forgiveness.

ash wednesday is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be truly and fully His.

i am excited and hopeful to see what he teaches the Roses.

as we are in the midst of some big life decisions, i pray that he brings us to a place of true dependency and reveals himself.

last, a song i've always loved by shane barnard, taken from Psalm 63 and Isaiah 61:

Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone and make it Yours

I delight myself in the Richest of Fair
Trading all that I've had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You're the richest of fair

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."—Isaiah 61:3.