Over the past few months, a good number of you have come to me with concern in your voices. What is the problem? You were afraid the church would catch fire! And what was the culprit causing this great anxiety? It was the candles on the communion table. For you see, over time they had begun to smoke. In fact, one Sunday, a church member told me they listened to the sermon through a cloud of smoke.
We tried everything. We trimmed the wicks. We lengthened the wicks. We learned that some “bad” oil had been put in, so we burned it all out, threw the bottle away, washed the candles and refilled them with “good” oil, only to watch them smoke again. What had happened? The top of the “bad” oil bottle had mistakenly been put on the “good” oil bottle, so even though we were filling the candles with “good” oil, it was passing through the “bad” top. You can imagine there was a lot of laughter during this process.
We now have new, beautiful candles and candlesticks. I hope you noticed them on Sunday. The brass bases, which had been used for 30 years, had tarnished beyond repair, so they were replaced also. It has struck me, that we all enter the season of Lent much like this candle experience. Over time, and years of use, our souls begin to smoke. We try lots of things, but still, our souls are tired and smoking.
As we enter the season of Lent, I invite you to be intentional about slowing down so that you can refill your lives with “good” oil. Set aside some time for silence and solitude, use your Lenten devotional book for guidance as you hear God’s word and take on practices that will help you understand this season better. I hope you will come tonight and be reminded once again that “you are dust and to dust you will return,” as the smoky ashes are placed on you.