From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
My dear wife, my sweetie-pie, has loves me after fifty years plus...unbelievable!
As human beings we may stop from time to time, but time itself is relentless. Most of us have spent summer, fall, and Christmas at home this past year, and now in 2021, we are at the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, lending itself into Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter.
Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021
What is this day all about?
What is the Service of the Imposition of Ashes all about?
We kind of get the gist of Good Friday and Easter, but what about Ash Wednesday? Well, it takes place forty days prior to Holy Week. Now let me check that a minute. Hold on! Yes, sure enough. There are forty days from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday.
The designation of forty days has always provided in the Scriptures a strange extended sense of Divine presence in our midst...we sense something more than change, it's a transition, or a sacred journey, or Godly intervention of huge proportion.
It rained in the narrative of Noah and the Ark for forty days and forty nights. It was God's way of starting the human story over again.
So, too, you and I, as human beings, bound in God through Christ, touched significantly and powerfully by the Holy Spirit, need these symbolic forty days to experience that same sense of God's intervention, holy journey and spiritual renewal. You know, I'm not so much into "spiritual renewal" as I am in Holy Spirit transformation. Spiritual renewal to me sounds much too "churchy".
I need personal transformation. I need the Holy Spirit to take control of my life. Otherwise, I'm much to inclined to do my own thing...and I know what my own thing is! Freedom to me is being "bound up" in Christ Jesus. That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but really, left to my own device, I will certainly imprison myself in one way or another.
Do you know what your own thing is? Go ahead. I won't tell.
Some people end up wondering why Easter...that is...Resurrection Sunday...just doesn't make it for them. Yes, they love the Holy Communion Service on Easter Sunday, but somehow something sure is missing. Human beings like you and me need the traditional time recommended by our Forbearers to experience the transforming power of God in this season of the year. I love it when there is congruency between what is happening inside of me as the things are happening lending themselves into Spring from Winter.
It is because we need to diligently prepare for something momentous to happen in our lives. God is not going to "zap" us without us and our human will being involved. We need to consent to "going out of our way" to receive the greatest blessing we could receive in life. We don't have the ability to just rise up at the last minute on Easter Sunday morning to receive the full benefit of what Resurrection Sunday is all about. We need to allow our special dish to cook and then simmer. God doesn't force religion upon us.
Saint Paul got it right. He could've made a name for himself apart from matters of faith, but there was something inside of him, that made him sit up and notice...that made him seek after God. He became the "young lion" of Judaism. He was smart, he was wise, for everybody's benefit, except his own. He really made a name for himself. He got so religious, he got involved with persecuting the followers of Jesus. He got lost, at first. in religion, but then, he was saved by faith. It took an encounter with Jesus Acts 9:1-19... because he was so hard-headed and intelligent. Sometimes we can be so smart, we're dumb. Please note the words of Jesus,
"...if the light within you is darkness, it is indeed a most profound darkness..."
It's time in the Church that we accept the wisdom of the early Church Fathers and Mothers and those who followed them. That's one good reason to start your journey to Holy Week early this year in the traditional way. There are Lenten guides available, but your best bet is always the Bible...
Die to self.
We need to go ahead, as is dictated by the things we normally proceed to do in the midst of pandemic. We also need do all the important things we have to do, but in the process, observe Ash Wednesday, and the forty days of Lent. It would be excellent, I am thinking, to share it together on zoom, along with Scripture reading, personal comments, and some really "down-home" prayer.
May you be blessed and uplifted this day. The journey begins on Wednesday!