Ash Wednesday ushered in the season of Lent last week. Is it odd that this is my favorite time of the year? I mean, not just because of the whole repentance, fasting thing – but also because of the enormity of creative expectation that accompanies a church worship director’s unique march to the cross. Yet, despite the occupational hazards, Lent centers me. It reminds me of who I am.
I grew up in a high church Anglican tradition that valued intellectualism and tradition over emotion and individuality. My spiritual awareness of this season didn’t extend far beyond incense at Mass and giving up Dr. Pepper. My parents were sporadic church attenders, but we went on Ash Wednesday. In the morning – 7 AM – on the way to school. The crosses on our foreheads on a seemingly random Wednesday were unique in our Southern Baptist-saturated community, and set me apart, in my mind at least, as a part of something special. I guess you could say I found identity in the Bride before I met the Bridegroom.
Then Jesus found me. My newfound personal community with Him (and subsequent defection to the Baptist church down the road) ushered in surprising joy and freedom from ritual as I pursued a relationship with God free of boundaries. To be honest, until very recently, Lent and ash-branded foreheads were but a childhood memory – identity playing itself out instead with a ramp up of choir rehearsals and production meetings in anticipation of the main event: EASTER, which, a lot of the time seemed to come out of nowhere.
Christ – our salvation, our reconciliation – is not found in ritual observances. We know this. Jesus – the same yesterday, today, and forever – does not wait for the calendar to give permission for His personal intercession into all we are. How grateful I am that I can go to Him, right now, no preparation required, and be met by His very personal love.
This is where I found myself five years ago as I began my graduate studies in worship. I approached a high church Anglican convocation service on campus with cautious cynicism. “Trappings,” I thought. “Missing the point,” I mused. Then Jesus found me AGAIN. As the priest began the ancient liturgy of The Great Thanksgiving, words I had memorized as a small child and recited every week, I sensed a wall in my spirit crumble and a reconciliation begin. The evangelical worship leader joined hands with the “smart kid” walking through Mass…and with the millennia of worshipers who came before…and after…
See…if my personal Savior is indeed transcendent…that means His love was there before I stepped into His story. In fact, by saying yes to Him – every time I say yes to Him – I step into a narrative far bigger, far greater, than my personal relationship can explain. It’s not either/or. It’s BOTH. Right brain and left brain…found whole, not in my story, but God’s.
So, despite the lack of blank space on my calendar the next few weeks, I shall breathe a little deeper – in solidarity with you and all of our brothers and sisters as we observe this ancient season of Lent — refocusing our gaze on One Cross, One God. One Story. In which…we are found whole.
**in observance of Lent this year I will be committing Tuesday mornings from 8-9AM to prayer and informal worship in our sanctuary. Anyone who would like to join is welcome!
Contributed by Beth Markham, Trinity’s Worship Director