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Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Today’s 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)
Today as we begin our Lenten walk we are admonished from the writer of Hebrews to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely . . . and run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” In many ways our walk through these forty days is a marathon. It is a long, steady, paced run that ends at the cross and changes course at the empty tomb. It requires preparation, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We populate this race with the cloud of witnesses, the fans on the roadside, our spiritual kindred.
So also with our Lenten walk. The word lent derives from the Germanic word langitinaz or
“lengthening days.” Indeed, sometimes the marathon is longer than we dreamed. This is where comparing Lent to a race isn’t quite right, because a race assumes a fast pace, a better time than the last, a competitive edge. Lent begins with a smear of ashes on our forehead, reminding us that we are human, that we are dust. The burst of energy that comes early in life’s race may evolve into weary hands, weak knees, broken hearts. But Lent also gives us another chance to lay aside what weighs us down and to set our gaze on the face of Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the one who launches from the blocks of Ash Wednesday and who is there to meet us at the finish line.
In this season of Lent we are called to lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees, to strive for peace with everyone who is in this race with us, and to aspire for holiness in all things. This is the longest run and the surest path. And this is where God meets us.
Holy, yes, Holy God, are you running with us? Are you walking the path of Lent with us? Are you there for the very long haul? Clear the way for us as we set aside everything that makes us stumble, so that we will be ready to stand at the foot of the cross and be astonished and joyful at the empty tomb. Amen.
Written by Lucy Forster-Smith,
Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education
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