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Ash Wednesday Devotion

February 14th The Beginning of Lent


“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;

let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts;

let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,

and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7

 

         Dr. Walter Brueggemann in his Lenten Devotional, “A Way Other Than Our Own”[1], writes this about Ash Wednesday.

 

         “The face of God shown here, in Isaiah 55, is of a Lord near at hand, ready to forgive, a God of grace. But this is a God to whom a turn must be made, a God of demand, a God of demand ready to be a God of grace…not just hard demand, not just easy grace, but grace and demand, the way all serious relationships work.”

         “The imperative around four verbs, “seek, call, forsake, return,” good Lenten verbs. But this is not about generic repentance for generic sin. I believe, rather, the sin addressed concerns for Jews too eager to become Babylonians, too easy to compromise Jewish identity, Jewish faith, Jewish discipline – in order to get along in a Babylonian empire that had faith in other gods with other disciplines. The imperatives are a summons to come back to an original identity, an elemental discipline, a primal faith.”

         We often look at our own Lenten journeys in a manner of the generic sin Brueggemann talks about. An easy Lenten journey where our spiritual sacrifice often looks like the New Year’s resolutions we failed to keep. We, like Isaiah’s audience, are called to respond to the God of grace and the God of demand. We, like Isaiah’s audience, often choose to assimilate into a cultural which denies our baptismal identity.

         Brueggemann goes on to say, “I suggest, moreover, that these are just about the right imperatives (seek, call, forsake, return), for Lent among us Christians. For I believe the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence and part affluence. The good news for the church is that nobody, liberal or conservative, has high ground. The hard news is that the Lenten prerequisite for mercy and pardon is to ponder again the initial identity of baptism…’child of promise,’ …’to live a life worthy of our calling.”

         Lent is not just a time of confession. It is also a time for us to consider how we have compromised our baptismal identity at the altar of a culture which does not reflect the promises of God. A time to remember we begin our identity as children of promise, who are called to live lives worthy of the calling of God. A time to seek, call, forsake and return.

 

Shalom,

Rev. Wendy

        

 


[1] “A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent” by Walter Brueggemann. Westminster John Knox Press, 2017. Pg.2-3

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