"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..." Hebrews 12:1 (NRSV)
Lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely...
"No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sin." (Message)
On Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or whatever you want to call it, we use up the fat, preparing ourselves for the Lenten fast. On Ash Wednesday we get rid of the extra spiritual fat, our parasitic sins, so that we may journey through Lent as Jesus journeyed to the cross - each confession a step closer to the forgiveness of all our sins, a step closer to everlasting life.
On Ash Wednesday, we come together in community to confess [our] sins to one another and pray for one another so that [we] may be healed (James 5:16). We receive, in ashes, a cross on our foreheads - from babies in arms to our elders - to remind us that "you are dust, and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:19). All of us, sinners. All of us, going to die.
Those that came before us - prophets, kings, loved ones, children whose lives were violently taken, soldiers, peacekeepers, sinners, saints - a great cloud of witnesses surround us. Their ashes, nourishing the earth; their memories and examples nourishing our souls. Their lives, a witness to a Father's love. Their everlasting lives, a witness to that love and a Son's death on a cross. God's love, nourishing and sustaining us all.
Today I wrote and sent my first Lenten Love Letter. An acknowledgement of sin. A request for forgiveness. An opportunity to lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. I'm unsure if it will ever be opened by the recipient, or if it will be discarded with the junk mail. I pray God will guide her to open the letter and to open her heart to my words.