Spread out, not focused or concentrated
Reflections on Lent: Dennis Bratcher
Lent is a way to place ourselves before God humbled, bringing in our hands no price whereby we can ourselves purchase our salvation. It is a way to confess our total inadequacy before God, to strip ourselves bare of all pretenses to righteousness, to come before God in dust and ashes. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creature, of our "perfectionist" tendencies that blind us to the beam in our own eyes. Through prayer that gives up self, we seek to open ourselves up before God, and to hear anew the call "Come unto me!" We seek to recognize and respond afresh to God’s presence in our lives and in our world. We seek to place our needs, our fears, our failures, our hopes, our very lives in God’s hands, again. And we seek by abandoning ourselves in Jesus’ death to recognize again who God is, to allow His transforming grace to work in us once more, and to come to worship Him on Easter Sunday with a fresh victory and hope that goes beyond the new clothes, the Spring flowers, the happy music.
But it begins in ashes. And it journeys though darkness. It is a spiritual pilgrimage that I am convinced we must make one way or the other for genuine spiritual renewal to come. I have heard the passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted a lot: ". . .if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." This usually is quoted in the context of wanting revival or renewal in the church, and the prayer is interpreted as intercessory prayer for others. But a careful reading of the passage will reveal that the prayer that is called for here is not intercessory prayer for others; it is penitential prayer for the faith community, for us. It is not to call for others to repent; it is a call for us, God’s people, to repent. It is our land that needs healed, it is our wicked ways from which we need to turn, we are the ones who need to seek God’s face.
It is not repentance that saves me; repentance is the sign that I realise what God has done in Christ Jesus.
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.
yet set on me what was yours.
that I might become what I was not.
Ruth Haley Barton
is rising out of the sea!″
~I Kings 18:44
to hose down the sooty earth,
and wash away the dirt that comes from who-knows-where.
I need a cleansing rain in my life,
dirty as I am with the grit and grime of these dark years.
My heart is hard and crusty
like patches of old snow in the yard,
my life littered with trash I don't recognize
and dead, brown grass where it used to be so green.
no bigger than a person's hand
far off in the distance
rising out of the sea of this disillusionment.
I would run like Elijah--
strengthened by the hand of the Lord
in hopes that I could be there when the deluge came.
Softening the hardness of my heart
Washing away the pain
Enlivening this dead earth.
I would lay myself down upon the earth
and bow my heart low
Waiting for the miracle that would signal the changing of the season
the end of this drought
the coming of spring
in the winter of my heart.