Rising Up from the Ashes

Rising Up From the Ashes

           Rising Up From the Ashes (Acrylic and Charcoal on Paper)

Today's Scriptures:  Psalm 51 and Isaiah 61

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Today marks the begininning of the Lenten Season. (Please note that the Eastern Church began Lent on this past Monday, Clean Monday.)  What is significant about the ashes? About Lent?

If we take a moment to look at the use of ashes in Scripture, we see them used in both purification offerings1 and as a sign of repentance.  How fitting it is that this day is marked with ashes.  On this day and throughout this Season, the believer works to repent, to come before God open, surrendering his/her brokenness.  Ashes mark for us a sign of our repentance.  We come to God acknowledging that we do not have it all together and are in dire need of God's profound and healing grace, God's abundant love and mercy. 

Lent represents a journey, a pilgrimage of preparation.  Lent is marked by themes of repentance and forgiveness, of penance and reconciliation.  During this season we are mindful of where we have and continue to miss the mark, where we have brokenness in our relationship with God, self, one another, and creation.  We are mindful of those things that block our relationships with God, self, others, and creation.  We seek to journey back into right relationship, to experience wholeness, forgiveness, hope, peace, and love.  During this season of Lent we walk, we voyage toward the Holy.  We seek to let God's holy light shine in the midst of our shadows and transform our brokenness.  Lent is a trek of continuing to become who God has called us to become.  At times it will feel like we are wandering and lost.  Yet times of meandering are good.  It is in these times of moseying about that we seem to make space for grace, we seem to encounter thin places of connecting with God in ways not anticipated.  The Lenten Season acts as a thin place of encountering this holy mystery of God in our midst.  This Lenten season is held in balance with both repentance and forgiveness.  We come, turning back toward God, once again choosing to set our mind on God and God's ways.  We come receiving God's forgiveness and mercy.  

During this 40 days leading up to Easter (plus Sundays), we endeavor to be more intentional about prayer, fasting, and caring for our neighbor through our service and financial help.  Through prayer, fasting, and the offering of ourselves and our resources, we are better able to focus on God, and the good news of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

How will we be more intentional about prayer?  What will that look like over the course of this time leading up to Resurrection Sunday?  What form of fasting, of sacrifice will we engage in to help us draw closer to the one who gave up everything for our sake?  And how will we be intentional about caring for the least of these?  As we walk into this sacred season, may we be intentional, may we make space for God's presence and guidance to transform us.

As I prepare to journey through this sacred season, I am reminded of a song by Caedmon's Call, entitled, There's a Stirring:

     There's a stirring deep within me
     could it be my time has come?
     When I'll see my gracious savior
     face to face when all is done.

     Is that His voice I am hearing?
     Come away my precious one.
     Is he calling me?
     Is he calling me?

     I will rise up, rise up
     and bow down
     and lay my crown
     at his wounded feet

In mythology there is a sacred firebird, known as the Phoenix.  Phoenixes are unique in that they are born again from the ashes.  Near the end of its life, a phoenix ignites in flames and burns to ashes; yet out of the ashes, the phoenix is born again.  The phoenix rises up out of the ashes.

Likewise, ashes are not the end of our story.  In the midst of this Lenten season, we know that we are risen people, resurrection people.  Out of our ashes there will be resurrection, newness of life.  These ashes that represent both our repentance and our journey toward purification also point toward us becoming new creations.  We are dying to self and rising in Christ.  This journey to becoming who God is calling us to be includes rising up from the ashes.  

As we begin this sacred season may we be mindful of our need for grace.  May we endeavor to participate in those practices of prayer, fasting, and caring for the least of these.  And may these practices help us to draw closer to Christ, so that we may experience healing and transformation from the one who is Immanuel.

Let us Pray:  Lord, for 40 days you fasted in the wilderness and were tempted and tested.  And then you began your public ministry.  Help us to enter into this sacred season of fasting, praying, and offering.  Give us strength to walk through these days as we journey with you.  Help us to come to you open and our hearts surrendered.  Wash us anew in your abundant grace.  Transform us according to your will and purpose.  In the name of the one who gave it all for our sake, we pray.  Amen.

1 See Numbers 19 and Hebrews 9 for more on purification offerings.

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