“Toto we are not in Kansas anymore” – Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz
I woke up in my new hometown, poured a cup of coffee, and sat in my chair to read the morning paper, like I do most every morning. Instead of reading the Washington Post I now read the Charlotte Observer. Instead of the Libyan conflict or the latest Capitol hill battle dominating the front page, my eyes turned to my new paper and there in bold type, I saw one of this morning’s headlines – FORGIVENESS NOURISHES THE SOUL – Churches celebrate the value of mercy as they begin Lent.
So I said to myself Dorothy’s famous lines from The Wizard of Oz and went on to read that this year there seems to be less emphasis on giving things up for Lent and more on “seeking – and granting – forgiveness.” I was certainly aware that today is Ash Wednesday, having committed once again to attempting to write 40 meditations, one per day, posting it on www.thehubbellpew.com and hoping that we will get a few guest meditations from the 11 year old philosophers, Will and Jake, or our new seminarian, Beth. So before we start with today’s I leave you with one more Andy Rooney thought, “ Who begins anything on Wednesday? We start the week on a Monday. We start long weekends on Friday or sometimes on Thursday. One always starts diets on a Monday. But what other major event starts on a Wednesday?
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear. Jeremiah 29:11-12.
As we line up to get black-sooted crosses on our foreheads and hear the words about mortality and the dust that is in our future, we often forget that in addition to fasting, meditation, forgiveness, etc., Lent is a season of Prayer. Prayer gets lost as we struggle with saying no to a dessert offering, to a glass of vintage wine, or the girl scout at our door offering us boxes of “thin mints.” At first thought, prayer about his plans for us, seems a little bit “off message” for Lent. The words found in Jeremiah seem hardly appropriate for the solemn day of Ash Wednesday. Yet, listen and meditate. God is saying “I have plans,” for each and every one of us. Not just plans for the world, but plans for you, individually. His words contain the comforting news that his plans do not include harm. He says, our future is one with hope, all we have to do is call him up, talk to him, and he will listen. Isn’t this exactly what we need to know before this forty day journey? We can start our journey in the desert of sacrifice and introspection, knowing that we have a lifeline to God. He is just a call away with news of his plans for us, and whatever we need to discuss, he will listen. The knowledge that we always have a future with God will assist us when after forty days of pain and penitence we won’t find bliss a lost art.