Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Sermon

Today, Ash Wednesday begins a season of preparation. Over the next 46 days we will walk with Jesus Christ to Easter; through Good Friday and onto Easter. Please note that this season is a time of preparation for Easter, not for Good Friday. Good Friday is a step along the way.

How do we prepare? Our liturgy for Ash Wednesday tells us that we prepare for the great Pascal mystery of Easter by observing a holy Lent – by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and by studying scripture.

Normally, we think of Lent as a time to give something up (like chocolate, or eating between meals, or alcohol), by denying ourselves of certain pleasures. But Lent is so much grander than simple fasting or denial.

Lent is indeed a time for:
  • Self-examination – when we consider our lives; who we are before God; what’s good about us and what needs changing.
  • for Penitence – if we find that we have sinned we are to acknowledge it, make changes, right a wrong (if possible) and move on.
  • for Fasting – reigning in our over indulgent appetites.
I like the metaphor of a juggler for Lent. We expect the juggler to toss a few balls into the air and to catch them. A juggler who only tosses balls into the air and doesn’t catch them – is no juggler at all. So, to only spend the Lenten preparation time to navel gaze, feel sorry for ourselves and fasting from candy and booze is hardy even half of the job. It’s like a juggler tossing the balls into the air without even the consideration of catching them.

Because – Lent is also a time for:
  • Prayer – being open to the divine presence when we get up in the morning, or before we lay down to sleep at night; at noon-time, or any time during the day – to stop, to be quiet, to pray, to be open to God’s love and forgiveness.
  • for Almsgiving – to give of our time, talent and yes even our treasure (our money) for the work and ministry of the church, for the work and ministry of this church.
  • for the Study of scripture – to be sure that one of the principle ways God has chosen to be revealed to us is in the words of Holy Scripture.
We deny ourselves certain things in this season of preparation so that we can be open to the presence of God in our lives. We toss the balls into the air and we catch them.

And from time to time during this Lent you may ask yourself; why, why am I doing this? Because God loves you. More than anything else, the Easter message is about the depth and breadth of God’s love. He is risen, Alleluia! Not even the grave, not even the death of Jesus Christ, the son of God and our Saviour, can separate us from the love of God.

And so, this season of preparation begins with a message of love:
  • “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This message may not sound like love at first hearing, but think about it. What is dust? What are the ashes we speak of today? Carbon, the building blocks of creation. “… you are dust” (ashes); you are made of the stuff of creation; you are made of that which God love. This is the message we remind ourselves of today by this action, the imposition of ashes: God loves us.

“… and to dust you shall return”: you shall return to God, the creator and maker of all, the creator and lover of all.

It is a distinct privilege for me to be the one who places these ashes on your foreheads and to remind you that you are loved by God and to God you shall return. Amen.

1 comment:

Mick Francis said...

I heard this sermon in person, and it is proof that a sermon does not have to be long to be good, or to deliver the right message.

The image of the carbon in the ashes being the building blocks of creation makes the whole "remember you are dust...." make perfect sense.

As one of the fortunate people who heard this last night, I say "thanks."