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Series of Weekly Lenten Reflections: 1 of 8

Lent: An Invitation to Re-ligion

Most would agree that ‘religion’ holds less-than-popular appeal in contemporary society, and even among those who profess faith. We don’t like to be thought of as ‘religious’ because at its worst it sniffs of something stifling, soulless, archaic—even sinister. Certainly and sadly this rings true for many people’s experience of engaging with Christians and the Church. 

But this isn’t what true religion is. Brain McLaren, for instance, calls that sort of expression and experience of faith, deligion. Instead, re-ligion in its richest sense might be rediscovered in two possible origins of the word, appearing from sometime in the first century. Some scholars favour re-lego, meaning to ‘re-read’. We come together again and again to re-read the story of God and ponder its meaning for the hopes, fears, joys and sorrows of our current context. Other scholars argue for re-ligio, meaning to ‘re-join’ (as in ligament). We come together again and again to re-join with God and one another through ancient rhythms of soulful wisdom found in the Christian tradition. We connect to something much bigger and richer than ourselves. 

Today is Ash Wednesday in the church calendar. Its name comes from the custom of marking a cross with ashes on the forehead as a sign of humble acceptance of one’s mortality and a re-turning to God with simple trust. Ash Wednesday invites us to set our face towards Jerusalem—just as Jesus did (Luke 9:51)—to re-read and re-join through a 40 day season of spiritual spring-cleaning. With whom do we resonate as we re-read the Gospel stories? What do the rhythms of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection mean for us? Where are we re-joined to them in our own daily journey? How might practices of both giving up and taking up over Lent cultivate a gentle curiosity in the ‘more’ to which God offers us? 
 

In this series of weekly Lenten reflections, we pray you might lean into a life-giving invitation to re-ligion, in its richest, fullest sense.

 


You might like to enter your Lenten journey with this simple ‘imposition of ashes’ with others or by yourself.

 

Create some ash and set aside some prayerful space

Begin with quiet and stillness

Read and reflect on Luke 9:51–62
What do you make of Jesus’ determination?
Where does his invitation for a similar singular focus touch you?

Follow this simple call and response:
We are all born with human frailty
Both joy and sorrow weave through our lives
We grow and wither as quickly as flowers
we rise and disappear like shadows
Rhythms of life and death punctuate our stories 
And you, faithful God, are found on every page
You know the secrets of our hearts 
And you keep us in the consolation of your love. 
So we set our face towards Jerusalem
Trusting your presence with us along the way. Amen.

Dip your thumb in some ash and make the sign of the cross on the forehead, saying:
Dust we are and to dust we shall return. 
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. 
May these ashes be a sign of our mortality and re-turning to God, 
and remind us that new life is found in Jesus. Amen.

Close with quiet and stillness
 

 

Bruce Hulme_clr corrected

Dr Bruce Hulme

Bruce is Head of Spiritual Direction at Tabor. He is passionate about helping others ‘talk the walk’ in ways that cultivate deep, reflective, and congruent living, so they can more faithfully walk their talk. This is expressed through his teaching (reflective practice, formation, pastoral care, spirituality, spiritual direction), scholarship, spiritual direction practice and curation of retreats.