thinking theology

Four Paths of Lent

Last week I was feeling weary from noting all the various encouragements for Lenten observation. Mostly, I think that late winter easing into spring is a time for quiet reflection, for spiritual regrouping, for taking time to make sure that we are equipped for the work of discipleship. At our church, we will have four stations to get us started. Here are some thoughts for meditation as you move through these stations in your imagination.

At the first, we are marked with ashes. Ashes remind us that from the conflagration at the birth of the universe, some of the bits of stardust became life on earth. We are connected to this universe, part of it forever. We share the biological markers that say we belong to this planet. And so, dust and ashes are the sign of belonging, of being part of the process of birth and transformation. Being marked by ashes means, for me, that I offer my life willingly in gratitude for being alive. Throughout Lent, we can whisper this mantra to ourselves: Child of this holy earth, I am called to rise in the light.

Another station to reflect at is the bowl of stones. We will place a stone in the bowl to show what we intend to leave behind. And there we place our self doubt, our regrets, our failures, because we intend to learn and move on. We will not be imprisoned by our past but release it for our liberation. Sometimes, we may have to carry the stone with us until we can see that this piece of a mountain is manageable for us because we are surrounded by Love. And so we say, I am made in love from stars and I can climb mountains in safety.

Next, we come to the bowl of earth and spring bulbs. We plant a bulb to remind ourselves that hope is trusting that new life comes in the dark, in mystery, unseen until it breaks open the ground. We plant for the future — always — modelling for others that nothing can happen without faith in some outcome, although it may be a surprise. In the morning we might say upon awakening: I open myself to the possibilities of this new day.

And finally, we come to our beginning, to the font and the waters of baptism, to the promises we have made about how we will follow Jesus. At the font we are reminded that we are part of the cloud of witnesses, witnesses to the conviction that our world can be peaceful, just, and healthy for all people. And we trust that in our midst is the Christ who showed us how to be human, how to experience that Holy one within, around, and before us. And so we say, in every moment, grace.

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