Today's Lectionary Text
Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.
Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. And the Lord gave me the two stone tablets written with the finger of God; on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly. At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. Then the Lord said to me, “Get up, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have been quick to turn from the way that I commanded them; they have cast an image for themselves.” Furthermore the Lord said to me, “I have seen that this people is indeed a stubborn people. Let me alone that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and more numerous than they.”
The season of Lent is upon us. It’s hard to believe, but it starts this coming week.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent which is a 40-day season (excluding Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting and reflection. There are many references in the Bible regarding 40 days: the story of Noah and the Ark, Moses on Mount Horeb, and Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness where he fasted and was tempted.
The Lenten season is time for us as Christians to reflect inwardly on our relationship with God and outwardly on our relationship with each other. It is a time to reflect, repent, fast, pray, and to ask ourselves, “Where have our hearts been stubborn or hard as stone?” “How is it with our soul?” “How do we show love to our neighbor(s)?”
On Ash Wednesday, we often hear these words, “I invite you, therefore, in the name of Church to observe a Holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer and fasting, and self-denial; by practicing works of love, and by reading and reflecting on God's Holy Word.”
Ashes were used in the Bible to express grief. King David used ashes when he lost his son. Job used ashes when he was grieving over the loss of his family, home, animals and property. The prophet Jeremiah used ashes when he was grieving over Israel.
Christians continue the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. In our tradition, we put ashes on people’s forehead in the sign of a cross as we say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”
I have had the privilege of doing the drive-through Ash Wednesday service at our church. It starts at 7:30 in morning as people are heading to work or school. I arrive at 6:30 to make coffee, get my black robe on and grab the ashes. As people drive up in our parking lot, I go out to their car and meet them. I ask if they have any prayer concerns, say a prayer with them and then place ashes on their foreheads.
I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical about this type of service with I started it four years ago, but it has been pretty meaningful and it keeps growing each year. I love meeting the people that pull up, talking with them one-on-one, hearing their stories and concerns, praying with them, and offering them ashes. There are some pretty heavy concerns that I know would not have been shared in a regular sanctuary-type service. Repentance, ministry and healing happens during this time right outside in our church parking lot.
As we approach the Lenten season, let’s approach it with an open heart, instead of a stubborn heart. Bring your concerns – even those deep ones to God through prayer. May we all be open to God’s direction and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
-Rev. Karen Nyhart
Old Mission UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Dear Jesus, forgive us for having stubborn hearts and forgive us for being tempted to follow our own will and not God’s will. Guide us in our relationship with you and in our relationship others. Amen.
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