Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days
Lord, who throughout these forty days
for us didst fast and pray,
teach us with thee to mourn our sins
and close by thee to stay.
Untied Methodist Hymn 269, v.1 words by Claudia F. Hernaman in 1873
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”
During the summer months, it does not rain in Israel/Palestine. Not a day, not a drop. It isn’t until winter that the sky opens up and water pours forth to give life to the crops and grasses.
Though we are now well into the rainy season in Jerusalem, I still recall what the first rain of the season was like: how surprising it was to feel the first drops falling from the sky, the excitement that came with the sensation of cooling rain on skin, and the resultant cleansing of the entire city as the sprinkling turned into a downpour which washed away the built-up layers of dust and dirt from streets and buildings all around.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season, a time of reflection and repentance. A time to stop and look at all the dust that has collected, a time to see how dirty our own hearts and souls are after a hot summer of no rain. We pause to look inside our gutters that are clogged with long held onto grudges – we bend down to see how the sidewalk is coated with our acts of selfishness and pride. Lent is the time where we sit in the midst of our flaws and our weaknesses and our mistakes, and recognize that we, alone, are powerless to change things.
Rather, we look forward to the hope that Easter brings: the hope of a first rain that will come as a downpour and wash all of our sins and dirt away; the hope that reminds us that we can never be so covered in dust that the love of God can’t make us clean again.
Dear God, be with us as we enter this season of Lent. Open our eyes to see the dirt that is on our skin, and open our ears to hear the coming sounds of your rainfall. Amen.
Devotion written by Rev. Jessica Lowe, GBGM Individual Volunteer in the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem. She is a commissioned Elder of the Louisiana Conference.
Photograph of rain taken by Anthony Redpath/Corbis
Photograph of palm ashes provided by Rev. Robert Duran