Will you pray with me? Almighty God, we are indeed so thankful for this time of centering ourselves and recommitting ourselves to take this journey with you on these 40 days of lent. Help us to open ourselves and be in a time of reflection and a time of learning, how to live our faith each and every day, following in your footsteps. So God, as we open ourselves up this night, help us to hear your words, your message through your humble servant. We pray. Amen.
What is Lent?
So I have a few things I’d like to share with you this evening. First of all, I just want to share with you a little bit about what lent is. This comes from the book of worship, and I just like to share this with you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the early Christians observed with great devotion, the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. And it became the custom of the church that before the Easter celebration, there should be a 40 day season of spiritual preparation. During the season converts to the faith we’re prepared for Holy baptism. It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith. We’re reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restore to participation in the life of the church. In this way, the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith. I invite you therefore in the name of the church to observe a Holy Lent. By self-examination and repentance by prayer fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy word, to make a right beginning of repentance and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us bow before our creator and Redeemer.
So we have this, time of lent where we are so grateful for all that we can think of all the things that we can share about. What it means to be a Christian, what it means to follow Christ. And so I have a few words I want to share with you. So when we talk about Lent, when we think about what this journey is going to be.
I also shared a scripture last Sunday. And I want to share it with you now, because this is part of what our whole series is about, about healing, and recovery from brokenness. When we do have a brokenness in our souls and our spirits in our bodies, in whatever it could be. So I want to share this with you.
It comes from Matthew also chapter 11, verses 28 through three.
Come to me, all you that are wary in are carrying heavy burdens. And I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart. And you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
What it means to Follow Jesus
And so when we think about this, this is a time when we are going to take a moment, take a moment to think about what it means, not only to be a Christian, but what it means to follow Jesus and to listen to Jesus journey as he makes his way eventually to Jerusalem when we get to Holy week and the time of the hosannas when people are so happy and then the betrayal, and then what he does for all of us.
And then the joy of the resurrection. This is such a special, Holy time lent is so Jesus in the scripture that I just read to you, he is portrayed as a healer, and that’s what we’re going to be hearing throughout this series. Jesus, as a healer, a restorer and. Is somebody who goes across the boundaries because he goes and reaches out to the marginalized.
He touches people that are normally considered outsiders, people that are considered unclean Jesus. The one who reaches out to all of us and is willing to help heal us of our brokenness. And we know that this invitation is for all of us. So Jesus is inviting us on this journey, this journey. And he’s saying, come to me, come to me because we know that all of us have had heavy burdens either one time or another.
There are times when we’ve had such joy in our hearts, but there’s other times when we’ve experienced so much brokenness and this whole last year has been a time where we have seen weariness. We’ve seen weariness among all the medical people, all the essential personnel, all that they’ve been doing to try and save people’s lives.
We’ve seen weariness and brokenness from families isolated when they can’t go and visit their loved ones. And they pray, especially if their loved ones go on the respirator that someday they will recover. There are times too, when we’ve seen other brokenness throughout our world, whether it be racism, whether it be economic depression, whether it be other violence that all the anger that has been coming out this last year, we need Christ.
We need to come back to where Christ is. And reach out to him and, and, and learn from him. And so we’re going to learn about his healing. We’re going to learn how Jesus asks us to go and do likewise. So at this time, I hope that this series will help you explore what it means to be yoked with Christ, what it means to be yoked with someone who is willing to help, carry the burden with us so that we are not alone, that God is always with us.
Transformation in the Elements
And so I want to share with you a little bit of this, special time of healing, about going back and looking at. What it means when we look at all the different elements. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that here at what’s on the altar here. We said that Ash Wednesday started a long time ago.
It’s the beginning of lent and it’s, it was developed in the fifth and sixth centuries. And it was mandated in the 11th century for all Christians to do this, although some Protestants do it and didn’t do it at the time, but it plays an important role, helping us make meaning of the brokenness of our lives.
And this year we know that we are aware of the fragility of life. We have seen it over and over and over again, every time we turn on the news, we’ve learned about someone else that has died or something or someone who’s gotten sick. Or something else that has happened. And I know that we can’t share ashes in the way we normally do.
And that’s why I invited you to get some oil or some water. Vegetable oil is fine. Olive oil works as well. We’re going to talk a little bit about the elements, how When we are in this special time, we can draw close to the elements of creation of earth, fire, air, and water.
And so it’s a way for us to remember that we too are part of creation. We are part of God’s creation. Remember that you are dust and to dust, you will return. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about all of this. So the first one I want to talk about is the earth. And so here, I’m gonna use the sand.
I have some beach glass. I have all sorts of different types of beach glass here. You can see it. All in this container, the beach glass as well. Sand is the origins of making glass, and we know that glass is liquified heated sand. And in a way, the sands of the beach glass are the epitome of the dust to dust or sand to liquified sand.
And if we take it back even further,
We realized that sand was created by the erosion of mountains and rocks over thousands or millions of years. So whether what you have on your hand today is dirt or sand or whatever it could be. We know that we are witnessing the brokenness and erosion and weathering of the earth itself. So all things become broken in one way or another.
But all things can also be transformed. And every form we take is Holy and it is beautiful. So if you have any sand or dirt, that’s fine. If you don’t just realize that at that moment, it’s something that we can feel. And we can realize that it’s part of decomposed nature, but it can also be transformed.
So let us pray. Holy creator, God, as we feel this elemental part of who we are, we remember that we ourselves were made from the dust of the earth to experience brokenness is the way of creation. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is the order of things. So God, we ask that you transform us and help us recover the beauty of who we are and, and set the goodness in transformation.
the next element I want to talk about is fire. You know, the glass can only be created when the sand is met with the heat of fire. No wonder the scriptures and poets throughout the ages have spoken of a refining fire. The heat of fire is always destructive, but with intention and care and tending what transpires from the destruction of fire.
Can be a new form with purposes that are good, useful, and beautiful. And if you haven’t lit your candle yet, I invite you now to light your candle and gaze upon the colors of the flame which may be white or gold or red or blue. And look at that flame as we pray, Holy refining fire of the spirit, as we feel this elemental part of who we are.
We remember that you invite us to feel the flames of passionate love for you and for each other, do not allow the flame of our spirits to lie. Dormant, offer us your light and life transform us. So God help us recover the beauty of who we are and see the goodness in transformation.
Next element I want to talk about is air. We take it for granted, you know, unless you’re hurt by somebody, you know, where there’s a whole bunch of smog and it’s hard to breathe, but we just breathe all the time. And we don’t think anything of the air, but the scriptures that pick the creation of human beings as having Holy breath, remember God breath, breathe life into us.
And it’s blown to animate our being. And Glassman vessels gained a new technique around the time of Jesus. It was known as glass blowing that was invented, offering a way for molten glass to be shaped by blowing through tube, creating an air bubble or a glass vessel ready to be used for practical artistic purposes.
So something as simple as this glass vase would have been blown. And breath is part of the creation of our Holy vessels. Breath is what is with us in our very first cry. And it will be the final song as we exit this realm. So I invite you now to close your eyes, take a deep breath, get comfortable, become aware of your breath.
Exhale as we pray. Holy giver of breath and life, as we feel this elemental part of who we are. We remember that this ongoing life-giving usually automatic moment to moment function can be an act of gratitude for our very origins. And this is the core of our relationship with the creation sharing an existing within this atmosphere.
Just as our breath offers us opportunity to let go of that, which we do not need in order to take in the fresh air we need transform us. So God help us recover the beauty of who we are and see the goodness in transformation.
The last element I want to talk about is water here. I have a pitcher full of water. As the water meets the sand and earth at the shoreline, we were also invited to a journey of meeting the living water that Christ offers us. If we recall, he shared that with the woman at the well, when he offered the living water.
An ancient peoples made wet soil in many forms as a healing balm, skin moistened, blood flow increased to the area of muscles relaxed. And it’s still practiced today in some societies are lent series about healing, then gives us an opportunity to use this as our way of anointing. So if you can I invite you to take some water or I also have some oil.
I brought this from the Holy land. And if you can, I invite you to just take the water or the oil, whatever you have. Take a little dab, just put a little dab on your finger, and I want you to make a cross in the Palm of your hand, the Palm of your hand, the one that you would greet others, the one that you would reach out to hold jesus’ hand, this is the Palm that we’ve realized that Jesus is blessing us. When we make the sign of the cross, we realize what Jesus has done for us. We remember. And so we pray healing presence as we feel this elemental part of who we are. We remember you created us, shaped us from dust in the Palm of your hand.
And someday we know that we will return to dust. And returned to the Palm of your hand. Once again, held and loved forever. We lament in this moment, the grittiness of life, the need for healing, the difficult and necessary process of transformation Mark us, as your own remold us again and again, as your people let the recognition of our own need break us open yet again, for the sake of others, for the sake of the world and all God’s people said, amen.