The Gift and the Grace of Lent

IMG_1386Ash Wednesday Reflection by Rev. Katelyn B. Macrae

February 10, 2016


My Lenten journey started this morning when I couldn’t find the ladder.

I looked all around the building, even in the shed outside, and behind the furnaces in the furnace room.

No ladder.

So I called one of our deacons who was coming to help set the Sanctuary up for Ash Wednesday and she brought a ladder.

We switched out the cloth hanging behind the altar, and the curtains up front.

But, as one project often leads to another, soon we were back in the Deacon’s closet, pulling out boxes and things from time gone by, some still useful, some which had outlived their usefulness.

The church mice have found a home in the Deacon’s closet, and we found evidence of their habitation in the chewed candles from old Advent wreaths.

Apparently mice like wax.

There were some blankets that they had chewed, presumably to make nesting.

Together we disposed of these items and vacuumed the closet out.

In the midst of the detritus, we found some new curtains in a box, waiting, it seemed, to be hung in the Parlor.

And in the way that one project sometimes leads to another.

And in the way that two of us happened to have irons with us, and a ladder, we decided that maybe we should change out the curtains too, just to freshen things up a bit.

And as we were doing this, preparing our church for the change of liturgical seasons, I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem, Making the House Ready for the Lord.

Oliver says, “I have swept and washed, but still nothing is as shiny as it should be for you.”

As I begin Lent, I feel that way.

Tonight in the Prayer of Confession, we admitted that nothing is as shiny as it could be for you O God.

I know that there are ways I could live my life differently, treat people with more kindness and respect, practice patience, listen first before talking. Spend more time in prayer.

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our finitude. We come from dust and we return to dust.

On Ash Wednesday, we are also reminded of what God can do with dust.

For in the beginning it was God who breathed life into the dust.

And creation has been spinning on every since. But every once in awhile it is good to pause and remember where we came from, who created us, and why we are here.

I cherish these forty days and 6 Sundays of Lent. I value this season of preparation, penitence, reflection, and prayer.

My spirit needs renewal.

Tonight we pray, create in me a clean heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.

At its core, Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate or trying to be holier or more pious than the person next to us in the pew.

Lent is about taking time to make our hearts ready for the Lord again.

The Lord who fashioned us from the dust, and to who we will return to at the end of our days.

Friends, It is time to clean out the cobwebs, and sort through the mental and physical detritus that has accumulated since last year. It’s time to get rid of those behaviors and thoughts that keep us away from God, and see what surprises might be found in the process of making our hearts and homes ready for the Lord.


Making the House Ready for the Lord by Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of miceit is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

As we make ourselves ready for the Lord in this season of Lent, may we be bold and humble enough to ask God to “come in”

To renew us, refresh us, and restore us.

For this is the gift and the grace of Lent.