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Ash Wednesday

"Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Matthew 6: 9-15 (NRSV)

Cindy Bear, from Iowa, had never given up anything for Lent because the practice did not seem meaningful to her. Then one year on Ash Wednesday, her pastor challenged them to think differently about giving up something for Lent. He asked them to think of a person they were holding a grudge or anger or resentment against and invited them to forgive them.

Years earlier Cindy had gone through a divorce. Her spouse had cheated on her again and again. She had been deeply hurt. How could she ever forgive him? She struggled with her feelings. Was she ready to release all the pain he had caused her? Finally Cindy decided that, yes, she was going to forgive.

The pastor asked them to write on a piece of paper what they were giving up. Cindy wrote it down, then folded the piece of paper. The congregation was then invited to burn their slips of paper in a bowl. It was one of the most meaningful Ash Wednesday services Cindy had ever attended.

It wasn't easy to forgive. And by forgiving him, she was not saying that what he did was okay because it wasn't. But deciding to give up her feelings of hatred and resentment was a freeing experience, and it still is, Cindy could move on with her life without the weight of anger and resentment that she had been carrying around for years. So she would like to challenge you to give up something meaningful for Lent and surrender it to God. You won't believe how liberating it is!

Prayer: Thank you, God, for forgiving us. Help us to be as forgiving of others, in Jesus' name. Amen.


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