Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.” ~ Jeremiah 48:12
All across the world there seems to be a frenzy of parades and celebrations. It is one last "Hurrah!" before tomorrow's gathering and the dispensing of ashes, reminding us that "from dust you were created, and to dust you shall return."
I guess over the years the pancake suppers, King Cakes, and traditional beads have become distractions for what is really happening. Don't get me wrong! I love a good party and celebration! And I have been known to toss some mean pancakes on the grill, but in the back of my mind, especially since my ordination, I also know that those celebrations will soon be silent.
Have you noticed that within our Christian faith there never seems to be an easy transition from one season to the next. Within the lectionary, I find it ironic that the church calls the majority of the year "ordinary time." Frankly, nothing I have witnessed in the church is ever quite "ordinary."
Even while things may seem "ordinary" there is always another season preparing to make an impact. The season of Advent prepares us for the Christ child, while the season of Lent reminds us that unto us a child who was born, was now making his way to the cross to die. And then there is Easter when we can't wait to resurrect the Savior and work our way to Pentecost, where once again we find ourselves with the rush of wind, and fire glowing.
While we join in one last day of celebrations, already I am starting to see posts by friends of what they are "giving up" for Lent, and I can assure you that somewhere in the world, someone is burning palms from last year's Palm Sunday, applying sacred oils, and thinking about the words that will be repeated time and time again as the ash from those palms will be applied to the foreheads of the faithful.
For me, Lent is the period in which I empty myself. It is a time when I try to focus not on my own will, but God's will, being done, while attempting to release the things that seem to prevent me from a closer relationship with God.
Lent for most of us requires a willingness not to be in control; a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance.
It is in that willingness that God is able to dwell more freely. As long as we fill our lives with so many "other" things, the ability for God to not just dwell, but to LIVE within each of us, becomes very difficult.
Today while we revel in one more party, eat one more pancake, or throw one more strand of beads at a parade, may we also prepare ourselves for tomorrow, when we receive ashes, and are reminded of our own mortality and the need to be more open to the indwelling presence of the living God.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Lord, prepare us for Lent...
The Immortal Creator
(Based on Psalm 90)
Lord, we know our history and look forward in time,
but You remain our constant.
Before the labor pangs of the mountains,
before the first cosmic particle even back before the beginning,
You were God.
From the very dust of the earth You
cry, “Go back oh mortals.”
In Your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday,
or like an hour’s sleep in the night.
You remove people, just as the plains’ tornado
wipes a home from its foundation.
We are as winter grass in the Guadeloupe Valley –
In the winter it bursts with green life,
Yet by summer it is quickened and
burnt in the scorching heat.
So it is with our life, consumed by Your discipline,
and by Your insight we are removed.
Our inequities are evident to You,
our guilt disclosed to You in a solitary glance.
Each day surrenders each second to Your might.
Our life ends as sudden as a short story.
Our life span may measure seventy-five years –
If we persevere, perhaps, ninety.
If our life is full of struggles and sadness;
Soon it is over and our soul takes wing.
But, do we take a moment to think of Your love?
Where else may we find respect even remotely
close to your amazing power?
Treasure each day is a lesson
You try to teach each of us,
stretching forth before us Your words of wisdom.
By our side, stand Lord, through the long hours
of each day;
Show us your mercy.
Fill us with your gift of love,
so that we may know joy,
laughing and singing like children.
Give to us Your grace, so that we may find
ways to dilute the pains of life with happiness.
Help us to see You more clearly, working
and ever re-creating within us,
so that others may recognize Your glory.
We want so much for God’s beauty
to be upon us,
until our hands find their way to
Yours, and we share in Your eternal purpose.
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.