Dear friends in Christ,
It is now customary for us to take a pause from the year-round Madness on this first day of Lent. While we hope everyone has a rich and varied experience of Lent and Lenten disciplines, we encourage everyone to savor the solemnity and, yes, penitence of Ash Wednesday.
George Herbert, English poet and Golden Halo winner in the first Lent Madness, wrote a glorious poem, "Lent." In that poem, he says this:
It 's true, we cannot reach Christ's fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior's purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev'n as he.
In both let 's do our best.
So while we won't ever reach the full stature of Christ, as our prayer book puts it, we can benefit from whatever effort we manage. That's what Lent is about. This season certainly isn't about perfection, much less self-inflicted misery. Lent is about growing to be more Christlike.
Lent Madness, we hope, helps you in the journey, as you see that God has worked in women and men of all kinds, in all places, in all centuries. If God can work in them, God can work in us.
The heart of Lent is recommitting to our Christian journey. We do this not to earn God's favor, but in thankful response for God's grace.
For today, we hope you will find your way to a church. Hear the invitation to a holy Lent. Be reminded of your mortality, of the preciousness of life. Feast on Christ's presence in bread and wine. Savor the Word revealed in scripture.
Soon enough, it will be time for Lent Madness. Today there is the smudge of ash and the reminder of who we are.