Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday Feb 18 2015

Audio Ash Wednesday

We so quickly, so easily forget who we are. In this fast paced world where all information is instantaneous and where photographs travel across the world in minutes, sometimes we believe that we must look like and talk like everyone else in order to be seen or heard. And when violence and hatred are the stuff of our headlines, and images of people being executed are in our news and on our screens, we suffer compassion fatigue and we quickly forget. We put aside the truth that we are indeed created in God's image, for God's love and delight. 

The cross that we were marked with at our baptism is the very same cross that we trace this day. The cross that we trace over with these ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us especially that we are God's delight, we are God's beloved, we are claimed and marked as God's own forever. And in this holy season of Lent, we have a chance, we have an opportunity to remember that. We have an opportunity to turn around, to face God, to face others, to face ourselves and to lay down that which keeps us away from God’s love. We have an opportunity to remember who we are in our baptismal covenant and to live that out in the world in every time and in every place. 

The invitation of Ash Wednesday is to go deeper into the heart of God. The whole point is not that we are just dust, but that we are precious, beloved children of God. The whole point is that we are precious enough to God that God would send God’s only Son to be with us, to repair and reconcile us to God, to bring us back to God, our source, our heart. The point is not that God wants us to be buried in dirt and dust but that God wants us to be buried with Christ. Being buried with Christ is the baptismal action, but it is not all that happens, we are also risen with Christ. 

God does not desire separation, and Lent is not about our wretchedness, God desires relationship, Lent is about that relationship. 

So the cross that we trace today not only reminds us who and whose we are, but it also reminds us that by it we are free of the bondage of death. We are freed from the bondage of sin. We are freed from that which holds us hostage. What is that for you? What holds you hostage? What is the thing that keeps you afraid? What is the thing that keeps your attention away from important things? What is the thing that keeps you from being whole? Whatever that is, that is the thing that keeps you from being free. 

This journey that we take with Jesus, this journey to the cross, in the dust and the dirt, and through the cross to new life, this is what Lent is all about. It is about paying special attention to God’s relationship with us, God’s precious love for us. It is about this amazing thing that God has done, and continues to do, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 

And the effect of the love that wins, is that we are freed to be loved, to love and to serve, and to be all that God intends for us to be. We are freed of all that keeps us captive, so that we do not need to be afraid to live our lives as God’s new creations. God's love, and Jesus' journey to the cross and on the cross inspires us with the courage to strive for justice and peace, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to offer compassion and mercy to all.

There are three things I am asking of you today. First, if you wish, pick up a piece of paper, and write on it that thing that keeps you from fully loving yourself or others. What is it that holds you hostage. What is it that you are afraid of. And at the appointed time, drop that piece of paper in the brazier, and it will be joined with the rest and burned for our ashes. 

Secondly, think seriously about what it is you might do this Lent so that you put yourself intentionally in God's presence. There is a book of daily devotions you can take home, there are many opportunities for you to have daily devotions online, you could participate in Lent Madness and learn all about saints, people just like you. You could read our One Book St. Andrew's and come on Sunday morning to discuss it, or participate in an online conversation in our facebook group. And there is always Morning Prayer. The possibilities are many. Your job is to chose one and do it.

And thirdly, as you leave today take with you a cross that you can carry throughout all of lent, a cross reminding you that dieing and rising with Jesus is not a burden, but it is freedom to love and to serve, and to remind you that you are indeed, God’s beloved.

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