Ash Wednesday Sermon Preached at St. Alban’s El Cajon 2016
In ancient Israel the symbolism of ashes was understood to be a forceful reminder of the pervasiveness of human sin and of the inevitability of human death. What is the message from the early church? I think it is instructions for everyday living. The message is about personal piety, charitable donations, and private prayer. This is about the religious practices of everyday life of Judaism. Isaiah calls us to sincere deeds of unselfish personal sacrifice, not false humility disguised by fasting. Isaiah, Paul, and Matthew are asking us to examine our personal piety.
- As many of you know I hang out with the homeless. One of my friends there came to the camp all chopped up, face, hands, and head. We asked what happen? He said that he got drunk and fell onto the channel rocks. He tried not too but just could not stop and went over the edge. After a long silence I said why didn’t you not just sit down? He had no answer, but said that he will try that the next time he was in that situation. Weeks later he was healed and looked good. Then two days later he was all beat up again. The first thing he said to me was, “I forgot to sit down.”
So like my friend that forgot to sit down, I ask you to remember to sit down and go to that special private place in your heart. Remind yourselves that in that secret room of your heart there is reward and rest. What a loving God we have. (Verse 14 of the psalm 103 suggests that a father’s compassion is related to his understanding of the child’s frailty.)
Paul calls on the Corinthians, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:20b) You know that Christ thought with a human mind, worked with human hands, and loved with a human heart. Yet was without sin. We have this good news. We have this great high priest that understands us. We know that we can turn to him and find forgiveness and love.
I bid you a holy lent of praying, fasting, and loving completely. Especially loving completely, and remember to sit down and go to that secret place in your heart, where your treasure is, and be with God. Amen