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This week marks the beginning of Lent. It seems like we have just taken down the Advent banners and removed the wreaths from our hearths, but here we are on the doorstep of another, very different holy season. On Wednesday evening we gather for worship, communion and the imposition of ashes. On Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and we’ll turn with him toward Jerusalem as he makes his journey to the cross.

Lent is a unique and often difficult season to walk through. It’s a season that invites us into self-examination and repentance. We are led to take a long, hard look at ourselves and to name those things that keep us from loving and trusting God. Given the events that have happened in our community and in our world over the past few weeks, we are deeply and painfully aware of our own brokenness and our need for God’s mercy and grace. This is part of our Lenten journey.

As we go through this six-week season, we will continue on Sunday mornings hearing from the Gospel of Mark. The lectionary calendar actually moves into the Gospel of John, but our worship team here decided to stick with Mark and to let him continue telling us about Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem. Through Mark’s gospel, we will be asking ourselves, “What do we need to turn away from in order to turn toward God?” Each Sunday we’ll hear a story that invites us to ask that question in different ways.

In addition to worship on Sunday, there will be lots of opportunities for reflection, prayer and growth during Lent. I’ll be teaching a special six-week Sunday School class down in room 109. We’ll be looking at the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life, based on a study by Adam Hamilton. For those of you not currently involved in a Sunday School class, this might be a good way to explore this season and what it means for you.

The Spiritual Formation Committee is putting together a book table with suggested readings during this season. They’ll also have devotional guides for us based on the writings of Henri Nouwen as he reflected on the story of the Prodigal Son.

Lent invites us to find more time in our lives for prayer, silence and reflection. Sometimes, it’s hard to find that space in our lives, so on Wednesday nights the Sanctuary will be open after dinner for you to come and pray. Of course, throughout the week the Sanctuary and the Prayer Room (across from the kitchen) are always open for you. Personally, I like the Quiet Room just outside the Sanctuary. You can see the cross and the altar, but you’re also enclosed in a quiet space apart from the world.

Often, we think of Lent as a time to “give something up,” and that may be just what God is calling you to do. If you find that your hurrying keeps you from God, then you might want to give up driving over the speed limit. If you find yourself preoccupied with food or videogames, you might want to give up snacks or Angry Birds. But whatever practice you choose, it should be about you and your relationship with God. This is a time to open ourselves fully to the loving gaze of God and ask, “How is it with my soul? What is getting between God and me?”

Let’s walk through this season together. Call me if you want to talk or pray together. Come to worship on Wednesday and on Sundays. Pick out a book. Read Nouwen’s devotional guide every day. Start a new prayer practice. Let us keep a holy Lent. Together.