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Thursday Thoughts February 15, 2024

Thursday Thoughts

February 15, 2024


 Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and perhaps you participated in a church service and had ashes imposed on your forehead. It is a solemn occasion where we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return. "By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19. Ash Wednesday is the start of the season of Lent, forty days of reflection, praying, and fasting until the start of Holy Week on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, the ashes that we received were from the burned palms used last year on Palm Sunday. Sundays are not counted in the forty days of Lent, they are like a mini-Easter. Those are sort of the facts of Lent but what does it mean for us in our daily lives as we grow toward perfection as John Wesley called all of Christ's disciples to do? By perfection, I don't mean perfect or without sin. Wesley called moving toward perfection a spiritual maturity that would lead to loving God and others without reservation.

 What is our job during the season of Lent? Many people give up something they enjoy like coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, or social media interaction. I have never understood the purpose of the deprivation scenario unless it is accompanied by study or prayer. Some people take up something such as volunteering at a shelter or visiting people who are not able to get out. Some work at reconciling past disagreements, or not gossiping. The purpose of such actions is to bring us closer to Jesus, the goal of Lenten discipline.

 If we accept this discipline, Lent takes us on a personal spiritual journey. No one else can take the trip for us but we have a Savior that walks it with us. We are broken and need to recognize that we need help. Before Jesus, sins were forgiven by offering a sacrifice in the form of an animal, bird, or plant. But after the crucifixion and resurrection, our sacrifice for all time has been given. But what does the Lord require of us? Psalm 51:17, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." In humbleness, we can pray many of the Psalms as a confession. If we continue to examine Psalm 51 the first few verses are a heartfelt petition written by David after a grievous act. Verse 1-2"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Verses 10-11, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

 Lent is a time of self-examination. It is not a joyous time that will come with Easter. It can be a painful time to take an honest look at ourselves. What is our heart attitude? Do we see others as Jesus sees them? Are we quick to judge? Do we make the Holy Spirit happy or do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Just like going to a doctor for a physical to see that all bodily systems are working as they should, Lent is a time of soul examination. Are we bringing honor and glory to God? Are our hearts and actions aligned? Do we speak true words? Does pride get in the way of serving as we were intended or that we have been gifted? Lent is a time to grieve what keeps us from living in lockstep with what we have been tasked to do and doing something about it. It is the time we bare our souls and ask the Lord to show us what needs to be cleaned out. It may also be a time when virtues like compassion, patience, and forgiveness need to be added.

 May your Lenten journey be insightful and cleansing.



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