Lent, Dust and Covenant

We’ve entered the church’s season of Lent; and most folks these days have only the vaguest notion of what it is, and how we should feel and act. In the church’s early centuries, a period of time was set for new believers to prepare themselves for baptism at dawn on Easter Day. This was extended to a period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) intended for all Christians to get themselves ready through repentant hearts, and deeds of self-denial and service to others, so as to be truly centered on the celebration of resurrection and new life.

Usual discussions of “what to do” revolve around “giving something up” for Lent, or “taking on” some new form of caring for others.

But at heart, Lent invites us into a way of seeing and knowing ourselves in relationship to God – the most basic way. Poet Mary Coleridge, of the 19th century, may capture this spirit:

Lord of the winds, I cry to thee.
I that am dust,
And blown about by every gust
I fly to thee.

Lord of the waters, unto thee I call.
I that am weed upon the waters borne,
And by the waters torn,
Tossed by the waters, at thy feet I fall.

It’s the cry of a heart that knows how only God can give meaning and life in a stormy world. At the same time, it seems as though the blowing gusts and tossing waters are actually directing the speaker God-ward. That’s a radically different outcome than if we were only “dust in the wind,” to quote the old rock ‘n’ roll song.

During this Lent, our worship will look at the concept of “covenant,” and how it is much more than an old Bible term for God’s relationship with Israel: it is basic to how we can learn about our place in a turbulent world. We’ll explore covenant notions like grace, personal responsibility, judgment and redemption, and future hope, through the journey of Israel and the church.

I hope you’ll join us for all the Sundays in Lent!



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