Lenten Devotional: Ash Wednesday, March 6 – Saturday, March 9


Ash Wednesday, March 6

Majesty everywhere

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! — Psalm 8:1a

Many of us today will receive the ashen mark of a cross on our foreheads. We will hear the familiar phrase, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Like a medieval memento mori — an object serving as a reminder of death — these words bear a truth too often lost in the shuffling madness of our lives. Hurried schedules, worries and resentments, preoccupations with events that will certainly pass away — all conspire to rob our joy of living.

Meanwhile, Psalm 8, attributed to David, reminds us that our gracious and loving God is sovereign, and that our Creator’s majesty is evident all around us. These two themes — the brevity of life and our chance to experience majesty more fully — are perfect lodestars as we begin our journey.

God, begin to cleanse our vision so that we may see your majesty reflected everywhere. Amen.

▲ Visio Divina — Guided Meditation

Breathe deeply and enter the cemetery.

What do you notice first?

Focus on the one part that has captured your attention.

What do you see with your heart?

What is beautiful?

What is hopeful?

After a few minutes, gaze at the entire picture.

What new things do you see?

What words of thanks do you want to share with God?

Thursday, March 7

Beyond the heavens

You have set your glory above the heavens. — Psalm 8:1b

Find a place away from the pollution of city lights. Spread a blanket on the ground, lie on your back and gaze deeply into the night sky. Let the sheer brilliance of the heavens stir your spirit.

Then, consider these mind-blowing facts. The nearest star to us in the Milky Way is Proxima Centauri — 4.2 light-years away, traveling at 186,000 miles per second. Other points of light above us are not stars, but entire galaxies. And, as Edwin Hubble first proposed in the early 1900s, our universe seems to continue its expansion.

Long before astronomy or physics, a shepherd boy named David pondered the same skies, realizing a profound spiritual truth. As vast as the heavens appear, God’s glory exists even beyond them.

As you fold up your blanket — literally or figuratively — take this glorious reminder into your daily life. Let it fill you with that sense of vastness that puts our individual lives into eternal perspective. Let it help you seize this vital day and make the most of it.

God, whose glory exceeds the reaches of the universe, fill our hearts and minds with your presence today. Amen.

Friday, March 8

Who are we?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? — Psalm 8:3–4

My friend tells a childhood story. On a summer night in rural Wisconsin, he went outside his family’s farmhouse and lay down on the grass. At first, as he gazed through the cold depths of infinite space, it caused him to shiver despite the warmth. He was filled with a dizzying sense of insignificance, like teetering on the edge of an abyss.

But then, something wonderful happened. A warmth arose inside him and spread throughout his body. “It’s hard to find the right words,” he said. “It was a knowledge beyond rational thought, an inner certainty that the architect who created the universe with such love feels the same way about my small life. I am a glorious part of creation!”

What a perfect illustration of David’s question, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” The answer comes in verse five of Psalm 8: “You have made them little lower than angels, and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Mighty God, thank you for your love that treasures both the galaxies and our individual lives. Amen.

Saturday, March 9

Right-minded dominion

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet . . . — Psalm 8:6

“Dominion” is a word we rarely use. From the Latin root dominus — “lord” — it means to exercise sovereignty and control.

God has given human beings dominion over this planet, but sadly, we exercise it in opposition to Jesus’ model of servant leadership. Our Western disconnection from the earth, our failure to realize how inextricably our lives are bound in every element of the biosphere, has led to catastrophic consequences. Melting ice caps, vanishing species and polluted skies are constant reminders.

Yet there are those among us who lift up an alternate way of living. Like Alex, a man I met who is dedicated to saving the salmon in Oregon. He and his team plant willow shoots in tributaries of the Columbia River, sprigs that grow into shade trees and cool the water to a temperature suitable for breeding. His passion for preserving the natural world is contagious.

I salute Alex and every other human being intent on exercising dominion with loving care and compassion.

God, kindle in us a deep desire to protect this planet you have entrusted to our care. Amen.