The season of Lent began on Valentines Day this year. As so many churches do we observed the occasion with an Ash Wednesday service and the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. The practice began around the 6th century in what is now France. It was the custom to mark with ashes the foreheads of those who had committed crimes against the community. In this way, they were always marked as sinners and excluded from important communal activities. Local monks believed such exclusion was contrary to the Gospel and they began donning ashes in solidarity with the castaways. Not only did the monks hear the cries of the ostracized, they showed compassion for those marked with ashes and became one of them.
Our confirmation class spent this past weekend at a Confirmation Retreat at our denomination’s conference center at Silver Lake. It was a really wonderful time as we learned more about the United Church of Christ, got to know other confirmands from around the state, took walks, ate well and slept ok. The group to which I was assigned studied passages in the Bible about the ways God speaks to us. God spoke to Noah (Genesis 9:8-13) and made with him an everlasting covenant. God spoke to the nine-year-old Samuel (1st Samuel 3) who proclaimed God’s word and through whom God called David to be king. Jesus spoke to a man who had been sick for over 38 years and healed him (John 5:1-26). Of course, God spoke to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, who is God with us. In this way, God not only showed compassion for us, but in solidarity, God became one of us.
God heard the cries of the righteous, those enslaved, sick folks, those cast out of society, and exercised God’s love and solidarity for us. God did this by promising to always love us no matter what, to free us from whatever holds us in bondage, to speak to us, to heal us and make us whole; and God still does.
As Christians, we pledge our allegiance to our Ruler Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to following the way of Jesus. And the way we do this is by listening to the cries of the world with compassion and to stand in solidarity with those who cry out.
On Valentines day, the beginning of Lent, the students suffering the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. cried out. Do we hear them? Are we listening? Dare we stand in solidarity with them as they fight to ban the sale of military assault rifles?
God listened to Noah and made an everlasting covenant. God heard the cries of the slaves in Egypt and sent them Moses. God listened to the righteous and made the boy Samuel a prophet. God heard the cries of the world’s suffering and the silence of its despair and sent Jesus to live in our neighborhood. God hears the cries of all children and sends us to love them and to keep them safe. In these days leading up to Easter let’s open up our ears and hearts that we might hear the cries of the children and live in solidarity with them….and with all who suffer and are marginalized in our world…..and with each other.
Join us during this Lenten season. There are several ways in which we, together, try to keep our ears open to the cries of the world.
In the hopeful expectation of the coming realm of Jesus Christ,