Lent is a time of Preparation
It is all about getting ourselves ready to celebrate and receive the gift of love, grace and salvation that is offered to us in and through Jesus Christ, fully embodied by his sacrifice on the cross
This year as we journey together through Lent, we will be focusing on submitting different parts of our lives to God.
It isn’t just coincidence that we begin this time of preparation with the marking of ourselves with ashes
It is a unique action in our life of faith together, in that it isn’t an action that is for God.
We usually spend a lot of time and make a point of ensuring that worship isn’t about us, but about God. But the imposition of ashes is really for us.
We put ashes on ourselves to remind us of the proper perspective we must have of ourselves and the proper understanding we need of our relationship with God.
Despite all of our efforts to the contrary. Despite what we would like to believe and what we try to project to the world
We are in fact dirty, stained and marked by the sin we have allowed to take root in our lives.
The ashes we wear are a symbol of that stain.
We will spend all of Lent focused on Submitting to God, but before we can submit to God we must first look at ourselves and honestly admit that we need help, that we have fallen short, that we have and continue to sin.
We begin the submission of our lives to God by first admitting and confessing our sins – not to dwell on them or so that we might feel guilt. But so that we might have a measure of understanding as to the depth and breadth of God’s grace, mercy and love for us.
Once we have admitted and confessed our sins to ourselves and to God, then we can submit them to God, giving them to God and letting go of the hold they have over our lives
We begin Lent with ashes and confession, not to inflict guilt or a somber mood, but so that we gain perspective as to just how profound what Jesus did for us through his birth, life and death on the cross is.
Hard as it is to accept our failures, it may be even harder to confess them - even privately in prayer to God. However, that is what God asks us to do: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We will take the next several minutes in silence to do this in a tangible way.
(Sadly, you can’t participate in the prayer stations with us) But here is what we did: Around the room were ‘stations’ that consisted of a grocery bag full of sand with a cup in it. Everybody had their own brown paper bag as well. At each station was also a piece of paper that described a kind of sin, had a Scripture verse and asked questions about to get us thinking about if we had committed that type of sin. If you had you were instructed to fill your bag with a cup of sand.
Immediately below, I have listed the wording from each of the seven stations:
Greed "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1Corinthians 3:3)
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)