Sermon for Ash Wednesday Feb 17, 2021
It has been almost one year since the Covid-19 pandemic closed our church to services. So much has changed in that year. On this Ash Wednesday, I am feeling sadness because I have known so many people who have died in the last year. I have lost friends, colleagues, family members and church members. It seems so overwhelming. I miss them and wish they were still here. But this year gives such special meaning to me of the imposition of ashes.
This year, you will be placing the ashes on your own forehead. And you will hear the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We know that we are mortal human beings. We know that we are only here on earth for a short time. The cross on our forehead reminds us of the suffering that Jesus experienced. We wish to give back to Jesus for all that he did for us. What might we do this Lent to prepare ourselves for the sadness of Good Friday and for the glory of Easter?
Some would say the season of Lent is a sad time. We change the colors in the church from white and green to violet or purple. We stop singing uplifting or joyous hymns and instead we choose hymns that are quiet and reflective. Once Lent begins, we stop saying Alleluia as a part of our service. That is a difficult thing for this congregation. We really like our Alleluias. At the 10:00 service many insist that they say Alleluia three times at the end of the service.
I worry about people who think that there is no fun in Lent. It is not that we should be sad during Lent but rather that we should be serious. It isn’t that we shouldn’t smile but that we should be quieter, more contemplative. It is as if we are an athlete training for a big event or a concert pianist practicing for a concert. We are preparing ourselves for the event of Easter.
Ash Wednesday is a time to reflect and consider where we are going. We are encouraged to consider actions that focus our attention on God. For some it will be a time to give up something they like, perhaps chocolate or sweets. Maybe some people will choose to read scripture or participate in some online Bible study. In the past, people may have stopped going out for dinner but that doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice this year.
This past week, my attention was drawn to a passage from Romans. Paul said,
“But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18.
Is it possible that during this Lenten season, we can imagine what causes us to be slaves of sin? Perhaps we can find something in our lives that keeps us from being totally dedicated to Jesus. It might be a sin such as greed or envy. But it might be something else that keeps us from God. Is there some relationship which causes us anger or resentment, keeping us from feeling the love of Jesus? Is there some wish we have that keeps our focus from being on God?
I read this week about a loving woman who taught her grandchildren important life lessons as she was chopping vegetables for the family meal. It caused me to ask myself what unhealthy parts of my life can be snipped off or moved so that all that is left is the beautiful fruit of God’s love. I also remember from years past that Lent is not just about what we stop doing but also about what we create. Perhaps you might identify something in your life that could use some nurture, like putting fertilizer and water on a plant. Or perhaps you might imagine that you are a painter who has just placed an empty canvas on an easel. What might you create this Lenten season?
Our creation might take some imagination as being with other people is hard and getting together in community is difficult. May you find some unique way to show your love for your fellow human beings this year. So, as we begin this Lenten season, let us do so with confidence and hope. We remember that our lives are short, and we should do all we can to live our lives in the best way possible. Rather than dread this time, let us listen especially closely for God’s word in our lives. We should do so knowing the good news that comes to us in today’s Collect: With penitent and contrite hearts we acknowledge our sinfulness but we look to obtain from the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness. The result of our Lenten efforts is just that, to bring us closer to God, our fellow humans and to obtain God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace. Amen.
Last modified on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 16:20
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