Years ago (more than 30!) I received a worship planning resource from my predecessor. It was a journal published by the Liturgical Conference, an ecumenical group of church leaders seeking excellence in liturgical expression.  But that’s beside the point …

“From Ashes to Fire” was a resource designed to aid pastors and others in planning for worship beginning with Ash Wednesday and continuing through Pentecost. We are now in the middle of that time, approximately 100 days from the beginning of Lent to the end/beginning of another.

I didn’t often connect Ash Wednesday … a day focused on confession and repentance … to the Day of Pentecost … a day focused on the renewal that comes through the Holy Spirit. Now I cannot think of them as separate events. And in the middle … almost exactly in the middle of counting days … is the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord.

It’s not a bad model for our living as God’s people:

  • We confess our sins and intentionally work to amend our sinful ways 
  • As we look forward to the promise of resurrection and
  • Eagerly seek the gifts of the Spirit through which we live.

Here’s the point: none of these can stand alone. They must all be seen as they stand in their relationship with one another.

  • Confession … on its own … without the joy that is Easter and the power of the Spirit to amend our sinful living would be at least improbable, if not impossible. If there was no hope or help why would we confess?
  • Resurrection … without confession and the power to live as God’s people, also makes little sense. It’s good news without the companion of the horror that is: sin, death, and the devil. It can result in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “Cheap grace.”
  • The Spirit … without confession or resurrection can easily become a means to an end, getting something for ourselves without recognizing from whence the gift comes. The Spirit is a gift from a holy and righteous God who has raised us to new life and now provides the means to truly live!

Join me, please, at the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord!  If you missed the opportunity on Ash Wednesday, set aside Maundy Thursday and Good Friday most especially to be in worship.  If you have rarely been in worship outside of Easter Sunday, make this the year you resolve to be in worship throughout the celebration of Easter, a whole week of weeks beginning with Easter Sunday morning.