Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sermon, Ash Wednesday

When you give alms.  When you pray.  When you fast.

These are things Jesus expects us to do as part of our faith lives.  It’s important to know that we do these things as part of our FAITH lives, not as part of our public lives.  In other words, we give, pray and fast in order to develop our relationship with God.  We do not do these things to show others how good or how pious we are.

Today is the first day of Lent.  This is the day that, traditionally, has the same feel as New Year’s.  Today I resolve to abstain from chocolate, pray more, watch TV less, read the Bible daily, not swear . . . whatever.  We eliminate, or try to eliminate, those things that harm us.  We take hold of, or try to take hold of, those things that edify us.  And like New Year’s, those resolutions usually get swallowed up by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, falling victim to schedules and deadlines and the simple fact that it is hard to change our habits.

But Lent does more than ask us to make sacrifices, either negative or positive, simply for the sake of the season.  Lent asks us to use this time as a way to draw nearer to God through self-examination, prayer, fasting, meditating and giving.  Lent is the time we intentionally draw nearer to God, with the intention of being transfigured.  Lent is the time that helps us live into the Collect of this past Sunday: Grant that we may be strengthened to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness.

Our problem in observing and living into a holy Lent, though, is, quite simply, everyday life.  It is the hustle and bustle, deadlines and commitments, and it is the difficulty of changing habits when most of our habits are formed and dictated by the world we live in.  Because, let’s face it, God doesn’t dock our pay or fire us if we miss two or three consecutive worship services.

If we are to live into a holy Lent in the midst of a busy world, then maybe we need to escape from that world for a time.  Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for his ministry.  The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness preparing to enter the Promised Land.  We also need to spend time in a wilderness experience preparing for our own ministry, learning to bear our cross, in preparation for entering the Promised Land of the Resurrection, and in developing our relationship with God.

This Lent, retreat into the wilderness, away from the hustle and bustle of the world around you.  Regardless of what Lenten discipline you have chosen, whether it revolves around praying, fasting or giving, enter the wilderness of your soul and reflect on the deeper meaning of your discipline in solitude and silence.  For it will be in the silence of that wilderness where you begin to see the world anew, and where you will experience the abundant nearness of God’s love.



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