Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew a right spirit within me
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Lent is a forty-day journey that can become, for us, an extended conversation with God. God’s power, our weakness. God’s provision, our emptiness. God’s abundance, our scarcity. God’s righteousness, our imperfection. God’s wisdom, our confusion.
And a conversation with God can become the foundation for a conversation among God’s people.
I see hope in the conversations that are happening across the church. Some conversation is between followers of Jesus who have very real differences with one another. Their unity is in the cross.
I continue to affirm, perhaps especially now, the resources contained in
The Anatomy of Peace
and the work done by the Commission on a Way Forward on convicted humility.
Another traditional text for Ash Wednesday is 2 Corinthians 5. It is a passage about reconciliation. The Greek word for reconciliation is katallage. It is a word that appears only three times in the New Testament, and was a term more commonly used in politics than in religion. It is a word about settling disputes.
God settled a despite with us through the cross. And God now asks us to move toward, not away from each other, as we take up this ministry of reconciliation. It is linked, Paul will go on to say in the first verses of 2 Corinthians 6, to our salvation. Our salvation is not in fleeing from each other. The Triune God did not flee from us. Our salvation is the way of the cross, our settling disputes with each other.
Finally, our hope is in the power and providence of God, in whose image we are all created, in whose church we are joined together through public promises. For the signs of hope, in conversations, in grace extended, and in justice sought, I give thanks. God is not finished with us yet. We now have these forty days. We are finite, God is infinite. And this is at the heart of Ash Wednesday—the way of the cross, which is God’s great agenda.
That agenda is to resist the forces of evil, injustice and oppression, and to turn to the crucified and risen Lord, our judge and our hope, with convicted humility. This is the path by which we become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.