“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Not very catchy is it? Not exactly bumper sticker material? Not really meme worthy? But this simple statement strikes at the heart of the Lenten journey that Christians around the world embark on each year.
The words are spoken at the beginning of Lent, in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, to remind us of our finiteness. We are but specks of cosmic dust particles, animated by the sustaining breath of God. One day we will all return to our cosmic origins, return to God. Our time, then, is not unlimited. We must make the most of the days we have. Lent is a call to remember who we are, renew our life with Christ and refocus our lives on that which really matters. Lent calls us into the wilderness away from the distractions of life, where we come face to face with ourselves. It’s an intimidating invitation; one that I’d just as soon do without.
But in our modern world I think Lent takes on an added importance. Lord knows there are enough distractions. My number one complaint, and the complaint that I hear on the lips of almost everyone I talk with, is “we are so busy, too busy.” We eat too much, buy too much, lust too much, waste too much and make the tragic mistake of thinking that all of this will make us happy (news flash: it won’t!). All of this is literally killing us physically, financially, environmentally and spiritually. Lent, then, is a friend who, seeing the error of our ways, grabs us by the shoulders, gives us a good shake and turns us in the direction we need to go. Lent turns us toward the stark simplicity and selflessness of the cross.
Our goal for Lent this year is to keep it simple. Wherever possible we’re going to avoid meetings and busyness. We will not fill up Lent with activities, but instead try to create space for prayer, fasting, reading of scripture, contemplation and alms giving. We will keep the rhythm of morning and evening prayer. We will explore together our appetites and lifestyles and how they affect the world around us.
So I invite you to pick up your cross and follow Jesus into the wildness of simplicity. I invite you to simplify your life, to unplug, log off and slow down. I invite you to keep a simple Lent.