Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A couple of years ago, one of our bishops received an email saying, “Can’t we change the words on Ash Wednesday ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’ to something more positive?” That pastor was told “No, that is the whole point of Ash Wednesday and why it prepares us so well for our journey into the Lenten season.”
If you think about it, our world today is living in a time of great wilderness unrest and anxiety where more than ever we need the ancient disciplines of the 40 days of Lent to remind us who we are and to whom we belong. Humility, repentance, self-denial, confessing our sins, daily scripture reading and a deeper reliance on prayer all remind us not of our own invincibility but rather our human vulnerability and our utter dependence on God.
The cross-shaped ashes on our forehead reminds us of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
As we enter into this Lenten wilderness together in this 500th year of the Reformation. I encourage you to recommit yourselves to your own daily Lenten disciplines of prayer and dwelling in the Word. Hopefully many of you will also participate in the “Praying with Luther” event on Monday, March 14, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at Redeemer in Columbia.
In closing, I want to share with you one of Luther’s prayers that reflects his theology of the cross, his personal need for self-surrender and renewal. It is one of my favorite prayers from Luther. Please know that Ginny, Eric and I deeply value your leadership and we hold you in our prayers especially as we enter into this busy and yet holy season of the year.
Yours in Christ,
A prayer of Martin Luther
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.
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