Lenten letters

To my fellow pilgrims in this season of Lent

Almost seven years ago I attended my first Ash Wednesday service. I listened to Jesus’s searching question to James and John as they sought power and privilege in his coming kingdom: “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” (Matthew 20:22, NLT). I knelt in silence at the altar. I received upon my forehead a dirty cross of oil and ashes. And I rose, ready for the return to daily routine, with new insight into the significance of this season in the Christian year: 

we are not called to be passive observers (or even penitent celebrants) of the Easter story but active participants in the offering of God’s perfect peace on the path of suffering, in the place of death, by the pool of people’s tears.

I was reminded of this as we marked the beginning of our Lenten season in a very special way this year: journeying between nine congregations to pray intentionally with members of Christ’s body for those within our communities who have drunk so long and deep of such a bitter cup that they have lost their sense of hope, of joy, of dignity, and, especially, of their belovedness. 

  • Have we drunk this cup? 
  • How has the bitterness changed us? 
  • Where is Christ in the midst of the suffering? 
  • Do we dare to drink deeply on behalf of another?

These are some of the questions with which we wrestle as we set our sights towards Jerusalem and share in the slow, and often painful, journey towards the cross on Calvary.

This cup, along with the broken bread, is at the centre of our table: a constant reminder that love is hospitable, grace is costly, and togetherness can be painful as we sacrifice our power and privilege to make room for each other. 

This journey is at the heart of our pilgrimage towards the perfect, eternal shalom of God’s kin(g)dom – complete with sore feet and dusty sandals, unrelenting ups and sudden downs, places of rest and refreshing, spectacular views, and surprising companions along the way.

This season in the church year is a starting point for repentance and renewal: inviting us, in Scripture and fellowship and prayer, to acknowledge and turn from attitudes and behaviours that keep us from experiencing and sharing in the love, the mercy, the humility, and the justice of Christ.

I pray that over the next six weeks you will intentionally commit to drinking of this cup of suffering, this cup of glory.

  • Perhaps you’ll take the pledge through UnitingWorld’s (or other) lent event (www.lentevent.com) to give up items you can live without for forty days and donate what you save to life changing projects.
  • Perhaps you’ll volunteer at a shelter or food ministry – or even invite someone who you know is struggling for a meal in your own home.
  • Perhaps you would like to join a local Lenten Bible Study happening in your area.
  • Perhaps you’ll let go of a grudge or a resentment that you’ve been holding on to for far too long.

As we drink deeply, may we be fill to overflowing with the love of Christ – for the world, and for each other.
Yvonne