A stained and battered alb has at Diane Roth at Faith in Community thinking about the temptation to keep our true selves hidden. A misadventure with a pen and the washing machine left her “new” alb with looking worse than ever. “I briefly considered wearing the alb anyway, on Ash Wednesday. If you see it, you might see why. It is a great (or terrible, depending on your post of view) visual aid of the presence and persistence of sin in our lives. We are all marked. And we can’t get the stains out, no matter how hard we try. I briefly considered wearing the alb anyway, but I just couldn’t. I decided that it was just too embarrassing. I just couldn’t stand up there with all those ink spots, and imagining everyone looking at me, thinking, “What HAPPENED?” or “How dumb could she BE?”…today I think that the ashes are more like that stained alb that I won’t wear, because it’s too embarrassing. To wear the ashes is to admit my fault, my sin, my failure. To wear the ashes is to confess my impiety. I am in the company of those who have failed. I am in the company of those who have done stupendously dumb things, like wash clothes with a pen in the pocket. I am in the company of those who have done mean things, and ignorant things, who have majored in minors, and not paid attention to the most important things.”
At A Church for Starving Artists, Jan Edmiston invites into reflection with the opening question “Remember When Child Sacrifice Was Not Ok?” We have succumbed to the lure of sacrificing children and others on the altars of convenience, big money and indifference. The surprising specialness of the God of Israel, she recalls, was in not requiring child sacrifice, unlike the gods of the neighboring peoples. “With Jesus, love was introduced as God’s superpower. And it becomes our superpower when we follow Jesus.” With that superpower, we can leave behind the shallowness of our sacrifices, and extend ourselves for others.
Writing at Gifts in Open Hands, Maren Tirabassi is also reflecting on temptation in this new season of Lent. She notes that Mark’s gospel tells of Jesus being tempted in the desert, and doesn’t name the temptations. His version of the story leaves us free to imagine the lures.
“because what I need for living is that Jesus was tempted
and made it,
the diva in the mind or
or the hound in the heart
sets as a trap,
I can make it, too,
and I will have as my companions,
animals and angels.”
At Musings from a Bricolage, Emily Heitzman reminds us that there is something on the other side of temptation. Lent’s mystery goes beyond temptation. “We tend to forget this because when we begin Lent by looking at Jesus’ time in the wilderness, we often focus on the temptations and his withstanding of them. And yet, meanwhile, we also forget that there were 40 long days and 40 long nights that Jesus spent fasting, praying, and preparing…And because we lose sight of this, we also tend to focus so much on how we, ourselves, lack the ability to resist our own temptations, that we turn Lent into a time of legalism and of beating ourselves up: through self-shaming, self-doubting, and self-hating. And yet, I don’t think this is what the wilderness is really about. It is not about loathing over our inadequacies and our shortcomings and attempting to meet perfection. Rather, it is about transformation. It is about recognizing that we are indeed human beings. And like all other human beings, we have our faults and we make mistakes… And yet, as humans, we are ultimately made in the image of God… and are constantly a work of God in progress.”
We are dust, and yet there is divinity in the dust Sally C. at Eternal Footsteps tells us.
“Remember you are dust, frail, fragile, temporary,
dust, for now made flesh and bone,
holding mind and heart,
senses of touch, dust to dust…
remember, for you are re-membered,
fearfully and wonderfully
woven, a one off, dust transformed,
dust of stars and desert skies, of sandwashed ocean shores,
of mud and mire, of dark and light,
remember you are dust, for there lies the miracle…”
And Bonnie Jacobs at Bonnie’s Books has an idea from a friend, if we are tempted to believe that “thoughts and prayers” will solve our toxic mix of guns, alienation, rage, white supremacy and violence.
Lent is just starting – are you finding it to be about temptation, or transformation, or something else in these early days? We would love to hear your reflection in the comments section below. Lent blessings, to you all!
Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian Church. She is working on resisting the temptation of online shopping for Lent. She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.
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