Meditation written and read by Cathy Tamsberg.
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. This evening at 6:30 Pullen people will join with Christians all over the world as we gather to begin this season of the church year and put ashes on each other’s foreheads. The ashes represent the fleeting nature of our existence. The traditional statement used in the imposition of ashes is “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Although we will likely use other language about this season’s opportunities for reflection and growth in our Pullen Ash Wednesday service, the ashes do remind us that change is part of the cycle of life. We are born, we live, we learn, we hurt, we love, and sooner or later we die a physical death.
This does not mean the material world is unimportant as some in Christian history believed. In fact, in today’s lectionary text, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that God asks not for religious ritual but a generous sharing of bread with the hungry (Isaiah 58:1-12). The material world, our physicality, matters to God and it mattered to Jesus, who spent a great deal of his time simply feeding people who were hungry for food.
Yet the season of Lent offers us a time to look beneath and beyond our physical needs to address the emotional and spiritual needs that are equally a part of who we are. Given that my time on this earth is limited, what do I want my remaining years to be like? What values guide—really guide—my life today? Are there some I want to deepen or others I want to acquire? Do I have ways of being in the world and with others that I would like to change or discontinue? When my life winds down and its end is in sight, how will I feel about who I’ve been and what I’ve done? Is there a “bucket list” for my emotional and spiritual being that includes personal qualities, relationships, or commitments I want to develop before I become “dust?”
Another way to look at Lent is to recognize that it comes during planting season in the Southern region of the U.S. Between late February and the end of March many of us will plant a garden of vegetables or flowers. So Lent coincides with our “sowing season” when we put seeds or young plants into the ground. We water and weed and nurture them in the hope that they will produce food or beauty later in the summer. So you might consider what seeds you want to plant in your life and the lives of others this Lent. Someone has said, “Who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God.” In whatever manner is helpful to you, use today, this Ash Wednesday, as a starting point for deeper reflection and prayer, for Lent is indeed a “sowing season, a holy time.”
This meditation is from “Lent: Sowing Season, Holy Time,” a collection of daily readings by Associate Pastor Cathy Tamsberg. Each day during Lent, from Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, to Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, a new excerpt read by a member of the Pullen congregation will be made available. To hear each day’s reading as it is published, subscribe to Pullen’s RSS feed, or listen to the podcast in iTunes.