Year C, Ash Wednesday: March 2, 2022
Holy Week: Ash Wednesday
Year C: Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 103; 12 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Imagine. Today is the first time since 2020 that we have gathered for Ash Wednesday. I was trying to wrap my head around that and all the feelings it evokes.
I hope you all believe that the Ash Wednesday liturgy is powerful and can be quite moving under normal circumstances. But the last two years have been anything but typical or ordinary.
We hear the words, “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Maybe those words have a much different meaning today than when we last had an in-person Ash Wednesday service. Then, my sermon in 2020 talked about life-changing experiences. I assure you I did not think a pandemic would upend our world and lives for the next two years.
But as we have been faced with life-changing experiences in the last two years, I think today’s service takes on perhaps an even deeper meaning. In particular, on this Ash Wednesday, I think we’re reminded not to take a moment in our lives for granted.
How do we make the most of this season of Lent?
I don’t think Lent is intended as a time for us to exercise self-contempt or find out how much we can give up. Instead, I see it as a call to remember that we have life, our life, as a gift – a gift from the God who breathed into us, into the dust of the earth.
Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent tell us to pay attention to the present moment. And to realize that it can all be gone very quickly.
We remember Christ’s life, ministry, and death during this season.
The Book of Common Prayer recommends that Lent be observed “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s word (BCP, p. 265).
We may wonder about prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other practices appropriate to this season. What good are they? They point to the need we have to put our faith to work.
Fasting has gone out of fashion (and some of us, for medical reasons, cannot fast from food), but we can engage in other spiritual fasts to redirect ourselves to God.
Take time to pray – perhaps by saying the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning and end of each day. The Daily Office gives us a regular rhythm of prayer given to us by our Jewish brothers and sisters – the Psalmist writes, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.” We say Compline at 8 pm from Sunday through Thursday. You can join us via Zoom or Facebook Live.
Almsgiving is not a word we often use anymore; instead, we speak of mission, charity, and philanthropy. All of these terms speak of God’s call to us to be people of love. Lent is a particularly appropriate time for “almsgiving,” the act of donating money, food, or other items to the poor or needy, especially as a spiritual practice.
When we fully engage in Lent, I think it does move us. Not only closer to the resurrected Jesus, but in being strong and honest in our faith.
Lent is a season for us to grow into our relationship with God. We can do this through prayer, reading the Bible, helping others, and other spiritual activities (e.g., journaling, walking, listening to music). Anything that connects you to God is a commendable practice.
On Ash Wednesday, we can be aware of our failings and fully confident in God’s love, compassion and mercy for us and in God’s continued action in this world. Beginning today, we move toward a unique forty-day journey with Jesus and have the opportunity to fall more deeply in love.
Ash Wednesday is a sacred invitation. It’s an invitation to participate in a renewal of life. It is a time to focus on the gift of life that God has given us
So, let’s accept this gracious invitation that we have today. Remember that above all, we have that invitation: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent….”
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.