Dear friends in Christ,
One day each year, we take a pause from the usual madness to be serious about Lent. On Ash Wednesday, all distractions fade away, and we are reminded of a simple fact: we are all dying, and this precious life of ours is a gift to be savored.
If you said morning prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer today, you might have noticed a little tidbit in Amos. "Hate evil and love good." It's easy to say, but it's very hard to do. It's not all that difficult to hate evil in other people, but hating evil in ourselves is never easy. And that's the point of Lent. We confront our own failings, so that we might make room for God's grace to create new hearts in us.
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us we are not alone in our struggle to hate evil and to love good.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
It's not that the saints are sitting in the Lent Dome and watching us all on the big screen. That's not what Hebrews is talking about when it says they are witnesses. Rather, we are surrounded by a cloud of martyrs, women and men who witness to us by their deaths. We are preceded in our earthly pilgrimage by those who struggled, like us, to hate evil and love good. And they loved good more than evil, Jesus more than life.
We hope you make it to church today to hear the solemn reminder that life is short. The time to repent is now. And then we hope you enjoy this whole season of Lent, an opportunity to return to God, to make our hearts new. Lent Madness may be mad, but it also draws us together in community as we learn from those who hated evil and loved good.
Tomorrow the madness begins. Today, we give thanks that we have a redeemer in Jesus Christ. Today, we give thanks for boundless grace to help us learn to hate evil and love good.
Photo: U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Jenny Hyden, 20th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, stands with a cross of ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 18, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham/Released)