Ash Wednesday

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Prayer, fasting, and alms giving are the three traditional tools of Lent. In all three, Jesus reminds us to do these privately and directed towards God. They are not simply a devotion of public spectacle, yet they are practices that are known observances of the Lenten season. In past times, when folks followed religious traditions in larger numbers, how much were these kept as private devotions? Sure a prayer could (should) be said privately, though many were (are) said with a congregation, many times those around us were fellow participants in the Lenten fasts and in the fish fry’s that concluded those fasts. Alms giving often are orchestrated by larger organizations, yet those these too could be done privately. Ashes on peoples foreheads in public years ago were a common sight. Going through the motions of Lent was easy with those large parties; with camaraderie it is easy to go with the flow. What about now though? Fewer people actively participate in religion, and many openly denounce them. How does that affect the devotion of Lent? For some,sadly they still might follow that practice of going with the flow. Prayers are neglected, communities no longer offer support to the fasts and dietary restrictions so these go by the wayside, and alms given only happens if asked. Since Lent no longer is one big party, it is easily forgotten. Others though might heed the gospel and realize the waters are not smooth but are quite turbulent.  They also might notice the boat they are in is not an ocean liner,but perhaps its lifeboat. For them it is a season to be navigated, and in the rough waters of a complex society that isn’t easy. Prayer, fasting, and alms giving cant be practiced like those around us do (or don’t), they are by necessity practiced as more private and personal devotions while navigating through our conflicting society. Lent today is as counter-culture as Jesus teachings were 2000 years ago. It is not simply followed, but navigated much as the Apostles navigated their boat across the sea of Galilee in a storm. It is navigated not by focusing on the wind and the waves, and on the culture of the day. It is navigated by focusing on Jesus , just as those Apostles did . It is our try  to make it through that storm on the lake, or survive those 40-days in a desert. Might it be wise to remember those Apostle fishermen during the next fish fry and how they crossed those same stormy waters?

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