Across the Pastor’s Desk: Let Lent be a chance for growth

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, March 7, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose

Don Rose


By the time you read this column, many within the Christian community will have celebrated the most somber day of the liturgical church year, Ash Wednesday, and will have begun the 40-day Lenten journey in anticipation of the celebration of the great Easter mystery of God’s love and graced revealed in the risen Savior, Jesus the Christ. Part of the Ash Wednesday experience is the opportunity of the imposition of ashes as a reminder that humans are dust and to dust they shall return. Yet, within the service is also the reminder of the great things that God can do with dust, for it was out of the dust that humanity was formed.

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Thus, though Ash Wednesday is filled with reminders of sin, mortality, and the need for repentance and forgiveness, there are other notes to be recognized as well. Thomas Merton wrote: “Ash Wednesday is full of joy. The source of all sorrow is the illusion that of ourselves we are anything but dust.” Merton is suggesting that the most important place for human beings to begin is with the awareness of the fact that they are creatures of God and not God or gods as they might think of themselves. Ash Wednesday becomes a reminder of what human beings, in fact, cannot do one their own in terms of restoring a fallen, and broken relationship with God. This recognition of what cannot be done is the beginning of an awareness and true appreciation of what God has, in fact, already done to bring about a new relationship with God’s people and God’s creation.

Until human beings can honestly say that they cannot, but that God can, they will find themselves moving further and further away from God’s love as they try to satisfy their deepest hungers with the things of this world that will never satisfy. Even the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving can become ways in which humans try to show their own achievements to the world around them. Individuals talk about what has been given up for Lent as if it were a badge of honor for the world rather than an understanding of God’s call to live humbly in relationship to all of God’s creation.

The journey of Lent becomes an opportunity for growth and renewal when it begins with truth that left to themselves human beings are nothing but dust. Yet with that recognition comes the promise of God to do much more than anyone might have hoped for or imagined. From the ashes of Ash Wednesday will come the new fire of Easter and the promise of life in fullness and abundance.

Don Rose is pastor of Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.