I don't quite get Lent.
When I was a kid, Lent meant going to church on a Wednesday night to get ashes smudged on your forehead (I remember being quietly jealous of the other kids, whose smudges looked more like the crosses they were supposed to be, when mine was always just a messy smear that looked more like I forgot to wash my face that morning).
I do remember the quiet church.
The smell of incense.
And the warm glow of candlelight.
I guess the solemnness of it all did make some sort of impression.
But then, after that it was largely a matter of finding myself sitting at McDonald's a week later, with half a bite of hamburger in my mouth, and remembering - that instant too late - that it was Friday, and I wasn't supposed to be eating meat... and then vaguely wondering if I hadn't just condemned my soul to hell. Do I go ahead and finish the hamburger then? Knowing I am going to hell anyway? Always a dilemma.
I believe I may have logged up a lot of purgatory time at the least. Of course, I have been logging up MUCH more time since then!
But, now it is Lent again, and I feel like I should make something of it.
But just what is Lent supposed to be all about?
I am no theologian, and much too lazy to do much research into it (well - I would if our Internet service was about a HUNDRED times faster), but the story of Jonah came to mind this morning.
God sent Jonah to Ninevah.
Ninevah was a wondrous place. It was almost literally a mountain of gold and glitter. It was a busy place. People were running everywhere, going here, going there; buying this, buying that, doing pretty much whatever they pleased. If it were today, I picture the roads bumper to bumper with silver Mercedes and stretch black limos. They had the best of everything, the finest clothes, the fanciest cars (well, the finest gold covered chariots anyway... the first SUV's - four-hoof drive!).
I am sure they thought they were the Kings of the World.
(Hey! Wait a minute! That sounds like me! Well, minus the gold and the Mercedes and a few other details. Still, somehow I manage to think the world revolves around me most of the time - evidence to the contrary).
But then, God had a message for them. Return to God.
Return to God.
And what did the people of Ninevah do when they heard this message?
They actually listened.
From the mighty King all they way down to the lowliest peasant, they tore off all the stuff they thought that made them so great, and they put on sack cloth and ashes.
They finally came to see the reality of things.
In the sight of the true King of the universe, they were nothing but beggars.
Maybe that's what we need to do here tonight.
Light some candles. Put on our raggiest clothes, smear some ash on our foreheads, and remind ourselves in a very real way that we are God's humble servants...
...whom he loves oh so, so dearly.