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Date: 14th century
1 a : treated, affected, or crusted over by freezing b : subject to long and severe cold
2 a : incapable of being changed, moved, or undone : b : not available for present use c (1) : drained or incapable of emotion (2) : expressing or characterized by cold unfriendliness
(adapted from Ash Wednesday homily)
As I drive through the countryside of Northeast Missouri, it is hard to imagine springtime – hard to imagine that anything will be green again. It is hard to imagine that anything will grow – that anything might be hearty enough to push through the frozen ground and up through the snow. Everything is frozen.
Tonight (Ash Wednesday), our liturgy will ask us to consider what it is that freezes our souls. What are those things we do that keep us frozen with fear? What keeps us from living fully in God’s presence? What keeps us from being more fully aware of God’s love for us?
What are the habits, both big and small that diminish our souls? What are those things that keep our souls buried? What is it we use to medicate ourselves – to make ourselves feel better in times of anxiety?
Those things are different for every one of us – for some it is alcohol or food or the need to buy one more new thing or the inability to spend any significant time away from technology. For some it holding on to fear that keeps them immobile. For some it is the constant need for the approval of others; for some it the desire to be in control. For some it is the temptation to project their own fears onto others No matter who we are, we have those places in our souls that we manage to keep frozen. Those places we try to hide away in hopes that no one sees.
It is those places that our liturgy will invite us to examine tonight and for the next 6 weeks – to be brave enough to take an honest look at what keeps us frozen –frozen to ourselves, to each other and to God.
Lent is about repenting, and for most of us it is about slowing down enough to know where those frozen places are for us – to recognize those habits that keep the ground of our own souls so frozen that nothing can grow, to name them, to let ourselves feel the sadness that they cause in our lives – recognizing that they keep us from being fully present to God and to each other.
The liturgy asks us to repent which simply means to turn, to turn from whatever it is that stands between us and God – to turn from the cold to the warmth, from the dark to the light – to move close enough to God to let those frozen places thaw so that they become less hard and brittle.
Observing the season of Lent is about opening ourselves up to the spaciousness of God – to let ourselves imagine what there might be trying to push its way out of the darkness and into the light.
And so, during this Lenten season, we take on new disciplines that open us up to God. Some might set aside more time for prayer or meditation or to read devotional materials that draw our attention to the spiritual life. Some of us will fast from food and other things we are to use mindlessly.
When we allow those hard and frozen places to give way to God’s love and grace in our own lives, we are more able be loving and extend grace to those around us. So that when we let go of those things that keep us frozen, and when we turn our attention to God, we are turning our attention to those things God cares about – letting our concerns be shifted to God’s concerns.
The Biblical witness to our faith is clear about what those concerns are – the prophet says it this way: “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them?” And he goes on to say, when you have done this “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;”
My hope for us all is that we might have observe Lent in such a way that when Easter comes we can celebrate that God can bring life from death, that frozen places can become fertile ground – places where lovely things grow and flourish, and that our own lives will be evidence of it. Amen