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What if we re-imagine Ash Wednesday and Lent as a time to be more closely connected to creation. That is something the Rev. Dr. Chad Rimmer offered to us at a recent study conference for Lutheran rostered leaders gathering in Canmore, Alberta this past week. The ashes we will impose on our forehead today remind us we are made out of dirt, just as God breathed air into our lungs. Despite the built landscape where we spent much of our time, we are part of the Earth. It is a time to reflect upon the simplicity of who we are how we are mutually dependent upon other creatures, including the biome that is our bodies. Truly we realize when something in the biotic department is out of whack and we need time or medicine for things to come back into balance. Doctors tell us to slow down and rest.

          What happens when prophets and biologists suggest creation needs a rest. Everything needs a chance to take things a bit slower. But that feels like a tall order given the way economies and supply chains are now interconnected in a global way. We are irritated that fridges and stoves are delayed traversing the world in container ships, made by people in other countries we are unlikely ever to meet. While we are unlikely to change these systems quickly, we can take a break and go for a walk or roll. We can enjoy the beaches, hills, and trails around us here in Greater Victoria. We are drawn here in part because of the immense natural beauty of this place. And yet we are realizing we can’t take anything for granted. That ecosystems require a delicate balance to maintain health. Slowing down and playing or reflecting outside can remind us of this basic fact we are made of dust. That we aren’t better or above the stuff of creation, the moss of the trees, the ferns in the forest, the water of the Salish Sea. We depend upon all these creatures and elements more than they depend upon us.

          Even though Jesus didn’t live in a time of rapid travel, he also took time for rest. He withdrew from the crowds. He took time away for prayer. And he went off on his own often to natural places. Even the desert where he was tempted in the wilderness, was a time of spiritual renewal. There is something special about taking a break from busyness. He also needed to be reconnected with the Godhead, with creation, and with himself.

          Too often we over-commit ourselves to some practice. So for this Lent consider one thing that will connect you with creation through faith. Whether it is walking or trail running, botany, a Lenten devotional, sitting at the beach. Whatever it is, whether a block of time you set aside each week, try visualizing one thing right now that is realizable. Something that you can imagine doing.

          One thing I want to do that I just decided today is to go trail running. It’s something I enjoy but don’t usually have time for. Every so often someone reminds me there is a trail run group that meets Sunday mornings, which isn’t going to work for me. But perhaps there is opportunity for some solo runs or with a friend. One reason it’s hard is that trails are time consuming. First you have to get to the trails. Second trail running is typically much slower than road running. So you need several hours typically to do it. And for it not to feel rushed. But with some planning it could work.

          Think about your thing and write it down either now or when you get home. Often when we write something down there is a better chance we will remember and commit to it. And think about this time to explore creation in an expanded world. For the world to feel a little more re-mystified, to feel a little more faith-filled. Sometimes the world feels a little too narrow but God wants to expand the love and beauty this Lent for all of us. Amen.