We needed Ash Wednesday.

“Most holy and merciful Father:

We confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints

in heaven and on earth,

that we have sinned by our own fault

in thought, word, and deed;

by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and

strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We

have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, Lord.”

-Litany of Penitence

I grew up with these words or words similar to these every Sunday and while I spent a season not loving the Episcopal Church and everything it stood for these words bring me home. They bring me to the cross. They remind of the desperate need that we have for the Lord. They remind me that I am not enough and I need that reminder. Sometimes I need the rhythm and rich words of the liturgy to remind me about loving Jesus and living in faith.

I go to a Baptist church and I love it. I love the community and the focus that our church has on serving Christ. There are in fact, very few things, that I do not love about my Baptist church. I grew up Episcopal though and attended  Lutheran youth group when I was in high school. I grew up with the familiar words out of the Book of Common Prayer that are said in every Episcopal church on a Sunday morning. Sometimes when you spend 18 years with something you become disenchanted, the church I grew up in was a little bit like watered down Christianity and at some point in time I decided that must be what all Episcopal churches are like. I thought that but I had and have friends who grew up in the same denomination who love and serve the Lord with all their hearts. I think I was a little close-minded.

Last night I got to take two college sophomores who I lead WyldLife with and who go to Young Life College to the Ash Wednesday Service at the Episcopal Cathedral. The cathedral is under renovation but it was easy to see that they had simplified not only the service but also the atmosphere and the decorations and the dean pointed it out in his sermon. He mentioned how Lent is a season to simplify, a season of penitence and self-examination; a season to be somber. We talked about it the whole way home and they mentioned how the service expressed exactly what Lent is supposed to be and how they had needed that clarification. There is a certain wonderful mystery and joy in celebrating Lent, in observing these 40 days of simplification, of focusing on Christ and of being marked by ashes. The liturgy calls the ashes the mark of our mortality and the beginning of a season of repentance. I think that we all have plenty to repent of. I have been going through a season of…exhaustion? Teaching doesn’t leave much time for anything else and I have grown a little lapse in spending time with Jesus and reading his word so for Lent I’m not giving anything up, well maybe some sleep, but I’m adding something. I’m adding being more intentional about seeking the Lord and reading His word and spending time with Him. I want to observe “a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP 264).

What does Lent look like for you?