Our Ash Wednesday services will be held in person at the church this year at 10:00 in the morning and at 7:00 in the evening on February 22nd.  All are welcome.
While it may seem odd, I’m grateful we have the experience of Ash Wednesday and Lent.  I love the festive, joyful, celebratory seasons too, of course. Still, if we have a sense that we’re supposed to be happy All The Time, that can get exhausting.  It comes as a relief to have some time set aside to bring to God our sadnesses, our griefs over the loss of other people, and our awareness of our own frailty, both the ways in which our bodies are subject to illness and injury and and decline and mortality, and the ways in which our hearts and souls are subject to pain and loss and weakness of various kinds.  Ash Wednesday is a day in which we experience God’s embrace of us when we are not always strong, not always healthy, not always holy, not always a ray of sunshine.  
In the middle of a culture of excess, Lent is a time to simplify, to return to what is essential.  I find there is something restful about it.  Overstimulation, or even overhelping others, or overdoing our attention to other people’s problems, often turn out to be ways of trying to avoid our own pain.  So instead of trying to constantly distract ourselves from our own pain or our own problems, Lent gives us the opportunity to bring them out and look at them honestly, as we remember that God looks at them with mercy and compassion.
I am grateful for the sense of rhythm of the seasons of the church year, that there is a time for high-energy exuberant rejoicing and there is a time for a quieter reflection on the things we regret and the things we mourn, all in the context of the love of God for us in every aspect of our lives.  
There are various ways we experience this.  For example, flowers are beautiful, and yet they are not essential to our worship, so we worship in the simplicity of the church without flowers during Lent, and then enjoy the flowers’ splendour even more when they return for our Easter celebrations.  And each of us can choose how we as an  individual want to participate in Lent.  If there is something that feels like excess in our lives, the tradition of giving it up for Lent or fasting from it for Lent may be beneficial.  Or if there is a practice of prayer or reading scripture that would draw us closer to God, choosing to commit to it for the 40 days of Lent is often what makes it do-able.  You may choose to participate with others in the book discussion Rev. Carol is leading on zoom for a deeper relationship with scripture. There is also a long tradition of taking on a Lenten practice of regularly giving to the poor or helping those in need, so we may choose a way to be a blessing in the lives of others.  Or there may be some other creative way God is leading you this Lent.
As the Ash Wednesday invitation in our service book says, 
“I invite you, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent,
by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, 
and by reading and meditating on the word of God.”
In the time before spring, seeds start quietly growing in the darkness underground, and Lent is often a time of germination in our souls.
May you be aware of God’s love for you this Ash Wednesday and this Lent.
Grace and peace,