Ash Wednesday Homily, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
We are a marked people! From our baptisms when we are marked with the cross of Christ forever, to our deaths where we are returned, earth to earth, ashes to ashes.
We are marked in our daily walk and in our actions. We are marked by our professions, whether it be pastor, teacher, engineer, retail worker, manager, construction worker, sales person, and many other titles. Some of us may be full-time students, while others never give up learning. We are marked as parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, nieces or nephews. We are marked by our faith traditions, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, or Catholic. We are marked by race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability or disability, wealth or lack there of.
These are labels. Labels that are easily understood and ones that allow humanity to be sorted into groups which we think we may be able to understand, yet at times are often misunderstood. Most of the time labels cause a division which is neither good for the individual nor for the community.
This evening we gather together so that regardless of any markings or labels that may be placed upon us we are reminded that we are one in Christ. One community breathing in unison to the ebbs and flows of life as we know it with each other. We are called to be together in the community as we listen to God through the prophet Joel:
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Joel 2:15-16
This evening is Ash Wednesday. This evening we are encouraged to come before God and repent of our sins known and unknown. We do not come before God, receiving ashes, for our own sake, but to give our thanks and praise to all of creation. Knowing that God is in all and as we receive the ashes, the God in us becomes one with the dust that we will become in the future. The ashes remind us of our finiteness in this Earthly existence and also the weight of our own sins.
While Ash Wednesday tends to be a solemn service, it is also one in which we are reminded of Christ’s never-ending love for all of humanity. While we came from dust, and to dust we shall return, we know that in the promise of resurrection that the dust itself bears Christ.
We are called to repent of our sins at all times, yet on this Ash Wednesday we are reminded even more so of the call to turn back to God and find life in God’s grace and forgiveness. Ash Wednesday is the doorway to Lent and as we walk through it you are invited and encouraged to participate. To participate in self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love.
In this season of Lent may we learn what it means to say “no” to those things that lead us away from God. During this season of Lent may we also learn what it means to say “yes” to those things that give us renewed life in God. May we remain strong in fasting from the “no’s” and be fed from feasting on the “yes’s.”
•Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them
•Fast from emphasis on our differences; feast on our oneness
•Fast from the darkness around us; feast on the light of Christ
•Fast on ill thoughts; feast on the healing power of God
•Fast on words that pollute; feast on words that purify
•Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude
•Fast from withholding anger; feast on sharing our feelings
•Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism
•Fast from worry; feast on trust
•Fast from guilt; feast on freedom
•Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation
•Fast from stress; feast on self-care
•Fast from hostility; feast on letting go
•Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness
•Fast from selfishness; feast on compassion for others
•Fast from discouragement; feast on seeing the good
•Fast from apathy; feast on enthusiasm
•Fast from suspicion; feat on seeing the good
•Fast from idle gossip; feast on spreading good news
•Fast from being so busy; feast on quiet silence
•Fast from problems; feast on prayerful trust
•Fast from talking; feast on listening
•Fast from trying to be in control; fast on letting go.
Loving God, let us fast from anything that leads us away from you. Teach us to feast on all that brings us closer to you. Amen. (From the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN)