Ash Wednesday Sermon- February 14 2018- Year B
It’s not about you. It’s not about me either. It’s a common thing for folks to come to Lent and Ash Wednesday thinking that it’s all about them and their sin and they’re need to repent. They come prepared to spend 40 days thinking about themselves and what they have failed to do. But it’s not about them. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God. It’s about God and what God is doing in spite of you and me.
Lent is supposed to be a time for us to ponder what God is doing in our lives, and what we are not letting God do in our lives.
Jesus didn’t go into the wilderness to focus on himself. He went so that he could focus on what God was doing in him and through him in the world. He went into the desert to pray so that he could get out of his own way and focus on God and God’s promise for us that he was to live out in the world.
When he returned from the wilderness, he went into community and he called people to action. Christ tells us to pray, yes, but overwhelmingly more so, he calls us to action in response to the gifts God has given us. He calls us to action to care for creation and the ones around us.
When we speak of ashes we are supposed to be thinking about how temporary our life is. We are supposed to be remembering that God created us, loves us, redeems us, and returns us back to God’s bosom when the fleeting days of life here end. Today, that reality has been made far too real for hundreds of families in Florida. As I followed the images and stories of the high school shooting there, I was moved to frustration and tears by the image of a stoic woman with ashes on her forehead holding another devastated woman as she sobbed. And then to social media where everyone is calling for prayer. But I am tired of hearing our children will be prayed for when we can do something to save them.
This sermon is NOT about telling you who should own guns or how many. It is about telling you our children are DYING and our answer so far has been to pray. It was not enough to save those 20 who died today. Prayer did not get a young man who desperately needed mental health care what he needed before he destroyed his life along with dozens of others.
Our Gospel tonight reminds us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Is your heart found among providing safety for our children? Or is your heart found among your individual rights to own things?
Is it found in creating and supporting accessible and affordable mental health care? Or among capitalism and getting ahead? Is it in trusting yourself and your defenses or in God and what God can do for you and with you?
These are hard things to hear and they are harder to say. I don’t know the answers, but I know that what we are doing as communities of faith is NOT enough. Every one of you would not rely on prayer if there was medicine or surgery to save a loved one, would you not? Then why are we relying solely on prayer to save our most innocent and vulnerable among us?
Lent is not about you, but it is about what God is doing for and with you in this world and community. It is about what God is doing through our community together. Fasting and prayer are not enough. We are called to more in our faith. We are called to love, to honor, to lift the yoke of burden and let our light break forth like the dawn.
Tonight, there is no comfort for those families. There is no comfort for a parent whose arms will forever remain empty from here forward.
In such tragedy, promise of eternal life is paltry and weak in the face of not getting to see their child and kiss their face again, even in death. It does not comfort them right now. It is too far off and the devastation is just too close.
As we move into lent, look around you and see the brambles and branches, the hard and scratchy places we must move through as we look inside our own hearts to see that Jesus came for the world- and that we are called into caring for that world.
The time ahead may feel lonely and desolate, yet we have the promise that was unknown before Christ died for us- we have the promise of God with us- always. We are not entering the wilderness alone- rather with Christ. And for this, if for nothing else in the midst of worldly pain, we are grateful.