Lent in Full Color

Pen Journal-5

Closeup of “Olana Matthew Six” by Makoto Fujimura

Traditionally the season of Lent begins with ashes, a symbol of human mortality, limitation and brokenness.  We often take the sign of the cross out of ashes on our foreheads, or hands to remind us of our humanity and our inherent need for God.  This is a profound tradition and has had rich meaning in my own life and past Lenten journeys.

This year, I have been thinking a little differently about the season and how to allow the journey to descend from my head to my heart.  While the tradition of grey, black and drab color schemes generally serve as the pallet for Lenten practices and observations, I don’t think that such grey symbolism tells the whole story.  While we offer loved ones up to God with the words: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” not all organic matter is burned and not all dust is drab.

This year I am seeking Lent in full color.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells his followers that when they fast they shouldn’t make a production of it, but instead put oil on their faces to bring out the color.  They should fast joyfully so that their sacrifices would be between them and God and their joy would continue.  This is Lent in full color, not black and white.

In his book, Refractions, artist Makoto Fujimura talks about Nihonga, a Japanese form of painting with mineral pigments: “The minerals I use in my paintings must be pulverized to bring out their true beauty.”

The pigments have innate qualities of beauty that are revealed in the process of being pulverized, mixed and refined.  The malachite, azurite, gold and silver become dust, revealing their inherent splendor.  Once the minerals are refined through this process they are mixed with an agent like glue, water, or oil.

We are like minerals, rough elements that through refining and mixing with God’s waters of baptism and oils of healing and anointing, our vibrant and deep colors are revealed.  God paints with our lives a narrative of reconciliation and love, God’s true nature – just as the parent running to greet the long lost prodigal child.

This lent, may we seek practices that produce a contrite heart, offering who we are in our beauty and brokenness to God, who is divine artist and healer.  May our beautiful, colorful dust become mixed with God’s spirit to make this world a more beautiful, reconciled place.


Categories: Art, Faith

Author:Chris Heckert

Senior Pastor of Haddonfield United Methodist Church Musician, communicator, husband/father, seeker of a better way through reconciliation by the healing power of God's love


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