by Clare Brauer-Rieke
Today is Ash Wednesday. In the Christian liturgical calendar, this day marks the beginning of Lent. The Lenten season mirrors Jesus' forty days in the desert, and accordingly we adhere ourselves to disciplines we hope will deepen our faith and bring clarity to our lives.
And it all begins on this day.
Many Christians approach Lent with a sense of somberness. The nature of the Ash Wednesday service certainly sets that tone -- our religious leaders mark our foreheads in the sign of the cross with ashes and oil and we are reminded of our mortality and called to repent: "From dust you were made, and to dust you will return." But as one who dwells in the synthesized world of faith and the environment, those words --which set off the whole season of Lent-- evoke for me now reflections on life rather than death.
Ash Wednesday humbles us. As we enter Lent to engage ourselves spiritually in service and discipline, we are to be reminded of what our nature really is. We were made from the earth and we will return to the earth. We are made in the image of God, but of simple clay. The biological life of this planet sustains our life, and when we die, our lives enter that cycle to sustain the lives of other biological creatures. Lent offers a possibility of reconnecting us with our own humanity; it is an opportunity for us to re-examine our thoughts and actions and the ways in which they bring us nearer to or separate us from unity with God and the rest of creation.
If you are interested in centering yourself in disciplines of care for the Earth and increased attention to climate change, I invite you to visit our web page: Resources for a Carbon-Free Lent. It is our hope that these resources aid clergy and lay leaders alike to observe Lent in positive and creation-honoring ways.