Today, Ash Wednesday we begin the journey of Lent. In the sermon at Holy Communion we were prompted to think of taking leisure, creating space to allow God fully into our lives.  With our penitential acts, our endeavours to keep a holy lent, we once again are tempted to rely on our own strength, our own ingenuity to get close to God…

The preacher invited us ‘to cut ourselves some slack, and pray a leisurely Lent.’  He said  ‘I have just started rereading a book, Radical Optimism, which suggests that the invitation to prayer is an invitation to leisure. Beatrice Bruteau writes,
“We think we must attend ceremonies, practice virtues, perform
ascetical exercises, accept the right doctrines and pray the right
prayers, in order to attain an intimate relationship with God. So we
do these things. And they do help… but the most interesting thing
that they do is that they eventually frustrate us completely and
convince us of their utter uselessness for attaining the ultimate
goal.”
Instead she suggests as St Paul did before her, that it is God that
gifts us union with God.
Beatrice writes, “I think most of the spiritual life is really a
matter of relaxing – of what Meister Eckhart called Gelassenheit – of
letting go, ceasing to cling, ceasing to insist on our way, ceasing to
tense ourselves up for this or against that.”’

What a gift Lent is then! It is not about us labouring or earning our redemption, it is not about being good, God’s gift is pure grace, God’s gift to us is love.

Marked by Ashes by Walter Brueggemann 

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.