I know it's here at the start of the day, but it never seems to be here until we finish the Ash Wednesday Divine Service. The litany, the ashes to remember our mortality, the beautiful words of the Introit and the Collect of the Day calling us home, the nine-fold Kyrie, the reading from Joel ("Even now...") and from Peter and the words of our Lord - the joy of preaching that God is waiting anxiously for everyone to return - even now, despite all. The offertory: "Create in me" - we pray it every week, but tonight we prayed it like we meant it. The choir singing: "See in Him God's love revealed." The Eucharist itself, somewhat subdued but still brimming with joy. "In Adam..." and "Lord, now lettest..." The final prayer we sing: "On my heart imprint Your image, blessed Jesus, King of grace..."
NOW Lent is here. Here is earnest. As a community in Christ we have entered it together, and together begun journeying with the whole Church toward the joys of the Easter Feast.
The sadness? Only 190 pilgrims began the journey together tonight - on Sunday we usually count over 300. Oh, people loved by God, make room in your lives for Lent! For giving, prayer and fasting, for return! Come and let the Word unfold its gifts and show you a Savior beyond all imagining - a love that will humble you, fill you, transform you and delight you. Not for a few minutes or hours. Eternally. Come and receive the bounty of the Lord!