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Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1–6, 12–14
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.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—

     “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
          or lose heart when you are punished by him;
     for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
          and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (NRSV)

Reflection
One of the most tedious challenges in our modern life is to get through security at O’Hare or Midway—or any airport, for that matter. We’ve become savvier about the process and more quickly remove our laptops from our bags. We are more adept at discarding our belts. We wear slip-on shoes so that they will be easy to remove. Shedding the necessary stuff helps us continue on our journey more easily. Our goal is to get to the gate on time.

These words from the letter to the Hebrews are meant to encourage the community of Christian disciples in their ongoing journey of keeping and living the faith. We make this pilgrimage through a world that is full of hostile threats. It is a long pilgrimage.

On this Ash Wednesday, we have a chance to set out on the pilgrimage again with renewed intention. As we do, maybe we will remember the words from today’s scripture. When living the faith seems next to impossible or simply uninteresting, we draw strength from the great cloud of witnesses—people who have gone before us in the faith. Seen or unseen, they cheer us on.

Perhaps we will remember that the one who leads the way is Jesus. He knows our suffering and trials because he has suffered, too, and always strides ahead of us.

And perhaps this Lenten season will cause us to think about the sins that easily ensnarl us and weigh us down. Could we shed them, like we shed those items on the TSA conveyer belt? We will be tempted to grab for those sins again, because we are used to them and think we need them. But perhaps with the help of Jesus and our prayers lifted to him, we might be strong enough to let go of those sins that weigh us down. We'll be lighter for it and will arrive at the right gate at just the right time.

Prayer
Dear Jesus, I am so thankful that you are the leader and perfecter of this faith I try to live in fits and starts. Give me clarity about the sins I need to shed, and help me to commit to doing so during this season of Lent. Encourage me to rely on you in prayer, knowing that I always need your help along the way. In your name I pray. Amen. 

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care


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