Lenten Devotional: Ash Wednesday

by Zillah Kisswany

Cross for Lent 2012Joel 2:1, 12-17
Psalm* 51:1-18
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
*All psalm references are to the Book of Common Prayer numbering and versification, which may vary from the psalter in some Bible translations.

On this first day of Lent, we will each be reflecting on what kind of “personal Lent” this will be for us. In reading today’s passages, I am especially struck by the theme of the heart. Psalm 51 describes it best in asking for God to “create in me a clean heart” and to “renew a right spirit within me.” No matter how well we think we are doing in living out our Christian faith, we are each charged with the need to ask for forgiveness daily from the God who never leaves us and to be made new.

How we “return to God with all our heart,” as Joel bids we do, opening the deepest depths of our inner selves, is where the Matthew gospel reading really takes root. It is the infamous edict not to practice piety in order to be seen by others but to pray, fast and give alms in secret. The loving, ever-present God already knows you intimately from the outside in. He knows what you do, when and how you do it! This Lenten time allows us to open ourselves up in secret to God to become the true Lord of our lives, daily being quiet and alone with God. While we have need for and desire the community worship of our church, Lent provides a time of profound self-discovery through prayer, repentance and renewal. Allow God’s steadfast love into your heart and see the joy he brings light up your life.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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