Wednesday, February 13
Minute for Mission: Ash Wednesday
Our pastor passed out small pieces of paper and pencils as we gathered around a table at the front of the sanctuary. On the table were a large bowl, a small container of ashes, and a flask of oil. We sang and prayed in the candlelight, calling the Holy Spirit into our midst. Then our pastor asked us to consider what burdens we had come into God’s presence carrying. What burdens of anger, pain, or disappointment might be keeping us from being able to follow in Christ’s footsteps? He asked us to write these burdens on our pieces of paper and to pray over them.
The burden that came to my mind was my inability to forgive a friend who had hurt me. I knew that the grudge I was holding was keeping me from fullness of life in Christ. I prayed that God would forgive me for my hard-heartedness and allow me to release my hurt and anger. I had to free myself from the desire to judge my friend and allow God to show mercy to us both. As I prayed, I realized that this would be my Lenten journey: to learn to empty out my tendency to judge and allow my heart to be filled with compassion.
The pastor lit a small flame by the bowl and invited us to burn our papers in the flame and drop them into the bowl. As each one of us allowed the flames to consume our burdens, they fell together into the bottom of the bowl. Silently our pastor mixed these ashes with the palm ashes from the container and oil from the flask. As we received the ashes on our foreheads, I was keenly aware that in this mark of Christ each of us was carrying a small part of each other’s burdens. No longer separated from Christ by them, and united in Christ with each other, we began our Lenten journey.
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Gracious and merciful God, empty us of the judgment, fear, and anger we harbor toward others, so that we may follow your example of love and forgiveness as we begin our Lenten journey together. Amen.