Grace and peace to you,
One of the games I like to play on my IPhone is Words with Friends. At any given time I could have 6 games going between various opponents. To be successful, you have to be willing to look beyond the letters. I find my mind working strategically to place my next word so that a new area of the board opens up. At other times I am not just trying to make a word vertically or horizontally but both at the same time! Further, I do a lot of experimenting until I hit the right combination of letters that forms a word the game accepts. Sometimes I will look at my letters, feeling hopeless and defeated, thinking that I will never find a word but then I see it. I see a possibility that did not seem to be there before. It is in the discovery that keeps me wanting to play more.
Before February ends, we will participate in an Ash Wednesday service. The ashes are made from palms left over from last year. It is actually not easy to burn palm. The palm never really catches fire but smolders and then gets very stringy. Ministers, who have tried it, have found it difficult and discouraging. Then there are others who look beyond the ashes and persevere in order to share them with their congregants on Ash Wednesday.
The ashes remind us of our sin and our need to repent. The Psalmist pleads his case to the Lord:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me”
(Psalm 51:1-2, 10).
When we get stuck, as often happens when I am playing Words with Friends, we must take a good look within ourselves and ask the Lord to remove whatever it is within us that keeps us in bondage. During Lent it is our time to fast and pray to God to be released from our sins and to be washed clean like the snow we did not see much of this past winter. Once we are free of our sin, we can see the possibilities. We can see the many moves that are available to us. We can then mourn on Good Friday and freely rejoice with all of creation on Easter morning.
What is sin? Sin is anything that keeps us from having a right relationship with God.
This is just the right time to make ourselves right with God. Lent begins at a time when we are thinking of forfeiting the game and giving up; but then a stream of light breaks through, a way is made clear and we discover our next move. I learned a long time ago that it is out of the ashes that new life springs forth. When we die to sin, we make room for new possibilities. Repent and be set free! Behold! New possibilities are springing forth!
I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
Congregational United Church of Christ, Farmingville, NY