A Lenten Journey: The Wilderness Trail — Day One, Ash Wednesday

Today, the calendar moves away from the season of Epiphany into one of preparation for the next great feast of the Christian church — Easter. We have arrived at Ash Wednesday, that beautiful beginning of the wilderness season, the season of Lent. 40 days plus 6 Sundays of thinking about how we live before God, looking for ways in which we can be more generous and eliminate clutter, both physically (fasting) and spiritually (carving out more time for silence and reflection).

Each day of Lent, I will choose a scripture lesson from the daily lectionary, find a photo that in some way connects to that passage (at least, for me) and offer a few brief words of reflection, trying to do so in a somewhat poetic form. This is a season that seems to call out for poetry. And brevity.

My own daily practice will be a form of lectio divina — a quiet reading of the text, multiple times, asking for words/phrases that speak to me in that moment . . . a word from the Lord. The reflections, which may often seem like prayers, will flow from the reading and/or the photo.

Will you come along with me, into the wilderness? I do believe that’s the place where God does good, good work in us. 

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Isaiah 58:1-12, The Message

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

 

‘To all appearances . . .’
Ah, yes . . . appearances.

Why are they so important?

Lord, deliver me from snap judgments,
reactive interactions,
defensiveness.

Give me eyes to see to the heart
of the person in front of me —
beyond what they look like, 

beyond what they act like.

That’s how I long to be seen!

And that’s how I am seen
by you.

You ask a lot.
But then . . . so do I.
On this journey,
may I
ask less,
receive more,
give more.

Do your work of restoration
in me, through me. 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

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Comments

  1. Wow, how I love this passage in the Message. I was drawn to the full life in emptiest places, to using the old rubble of past lives to rebuild. I’d like to be known as someone who could fix anything. I’m ready to be restored.

    • I love it, too. I used a lot of selections from The Message to do this series for 2015 and was so blessed by the way Peterson helps me to see familiar words in new ways. I’m ready to be restored, too, my friend.

  2. Thank you for doing this. This is the part that stood out to me:
    “to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.”
    These things have been on my heart already, and I have seen injustice in a big picture way come out in the news in recent times. But now I am asking myself how I can practice breaking chains in my own small way in my environment right now. Taking it from an heroic ideal (as I’ve read into it before,) to a small and do-able action.

  3. How easy to point this at others… to justify my own shortcomings…

    May God have mercy.

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