Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is the period of forty days leading up to Palm Sunday. It prepares for Holy Week - Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection. Its example is the period of forty days and forty nights during which Jesus fasted in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. Ash Wednesday takes its name from a tradition of marking worshippers’ foreheads with ash on that day, to symbolise the sins which Lent asks us to face.
‘What is sin?’ says a close relative of Pilate, but waits for no answer.
Bring into God's presence the crosses which you were given as a child. Picture them in young wood:
the crosses of your parents' expectations, or lack of them;
the crosses of material comfort or hardship;
the crosses of your body and of your physical appearance, which you felt acutely;
and the crosses fashioned for you in your education.
Almighty God, here are the crosses of childhood which I have carried: receive them from me.
Picture in thick timber beams, in load-bearing wood, the crosses of your adult life:the crosses which you were given to carry, or out of ambition chose to carry, in working or in being denied work;
those patterns in the living out of relationships which you need to break, but cannot or do not;
the stresses of your temper and personality;
the opportunities given to others which you think should have come to you;
and the responsibilities of caring for children or adults.
Almighty God, here are the crosses of adult life which I have carried: receive them from me.
Picture in splintering wood the crosses of sickness, bereavement and death. Think of the frailty of our created bodies, and any illness or distress which affects you or those whom you love. Bring into God's presence the crosses of all those known to you who suffer, and those who have died.
Almighty God, here are the crosses of sickness and death which I have carried: receive them from me.
Picture in carved wood, polished and decorated by generations, any crosses which you have been given by the church itself:
denial of your gender, race or sexuality;
poor teaching, ignorant advice or selfish use of power;
worship which suffocated your identity and your spirit.
Almighty God, here are the crosses of my religion which I have carried: receive them from me.
Picture in wood of your choice the crosses of your own creation: the crosses of your own sins. Feel their weight and length; their age or newness; with nature’s roughness or carved by pride. Are these crosses the work of months or of moments? Where have you been keeping them? Whom have they hurt? What might it feel like to be without them?
Almighty God, here are the crosses of my own making: receive them from me and forgive me.
Creator God, you made us all out of infinite goodness. Out of infinite forgiveness you call us all to become our true selves in you. Burn these crosses, every one, to ash. Let their ashes be to us the seal of your forgiveness, the assurance of your power and the certain promise of new life.