Ash Wednesday, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 2, year A June 22, 2014 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39
Trinity Sunday, Year A June 15, 2014 Trinity Sunday, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
Pentecost, Year A June 8, 2014 The Day of Pentecost, Year A Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23
Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A June 1, 2014 Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:6-14
Easter 6, year A May 25, 2014 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014 Acts 17:22-31, John 14: 15-21
Easter 5, year A May 18, 2014 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14
Easter 4, year A May 11, 2014 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A John 10:1-10, Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 2: 19-25, Psalm 23
Easter 3, year A May 4, 2014 Easter 3, Year A Luke 24:13-35
Easter 3, year A – Shrine Mont May 4, 2014 Third Sunday of Easter, Year A Luke 24: 13-35
Easter 2, year A April 27, 2014 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A John 20:19-31, Psalm 16
Easter April 20, 2014 Easter Day, Year A Jeremiah 31:1-6, Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday April 18, 2014 Good Friday, Year A The Passion according to John
Palm Sunday 2014 reflections April 13, 2014 Palm Sunday, year A Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Fifth Sunday in Lent April 6, 2014 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A 2014 Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130
Fourth Sunday in Lent March 30, 2014 The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ephesians 5:8-14

 

Ash Wednesday, Year A

Sermon Date:March 5, 2014

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Liturgy Calendar: Ash Wednesday, Year A


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Getting right with God.

Paul puts it this way in his second letter to the Corinthians. 

“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In this hemisphere of our planet, this is the season of late winter, the time when, during yet another snowfall and more frigid weather, our bodies long for spring, with its warmth and the lengthening of days and the blessing of more sunlight.

The Church, in its wisdom, has appointed this season for us to be intentional about working on our relationships with God–

the season of Lent, into which we now enter. 

This Lenten season is, first and foremost, a season of longing–

the time of year when the Church reminds us to long for the spring of God’s love to flow into to us like the rising sap in the trees, and for the warmth of God’s compassion and mercy to bring light and warmth into the chill of our hearts that are caught in the icy grip of sin.

There’s a lovely hymn by Natalie Sleeth, unfortunately not in any of our hymn books, that captures this longing I’m talking about—“There’s a bulb within a flower, in the seed an apple tree, in cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free.  In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” 

We are those bulbs, seeds, cocoons.

In this season of Lent, we long to grow and to become the unique and beautiful creatures that God longs for each of us to be. 

And like bulbs, seeds and cocoons, all of the action is happening inside of us, unseen by the outside world now, but gloriously visible later. 

So not only is this Lenten season a season of longing, but it is also an interior season, a season of going deep within and doing the hard spiritual work  required if we are to grow abundantly and ultimately to bear fruit in due season.

Lent is the time to enter into the dark potential of our hearts and souls, like turning the rich dark earth, and preparing it for the seeds which will grow and bear fruit. 

Our culture is all about being seen, having our fifteen minutes of fame, putting ourselves out there—“World, I’m here!”

But to be truly present in the world requires the intention on our parts to set  aside the world for a time.

How will you go about doing this inner work during Lent?   

Some people physically go away on Lenten retreats.  Most of us don’t have such a luxury.  We have to figure out how to go within in the midst of our busy days.

Prophets have known about the importance of this inner work since the beginning.  Joel told the people to rend their hearts, not their garments, and to return to the Lord.

And Jesus told his disciples to give generously, but in secret, to pray diligently, but in private, and to fast faithfully, without any outward signs of the fast.

The Book of Common Prayer tells us to enter into a time of self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

How you choose to do these things will be up to you, but no matter what we all choose to do, please remember these three things.

First of all, the Lenten disciplines we choose should be directly related to our longing to get right with God.

Second, our disciplines are about going inside ourselves to get right with God.

Third, being intentional about this work is a necessity. 

All relationships, including our relationship with God, must be tended.  And so being intentional about setting aside time and being intentional about working on the relationship is essential if we are to grow into who God wants us to be. 

In a few minutes, we are going to have ashes imposed on our foreheads.  And this action is ironic in the light of what I’ve just said, because it is a very public action.  Many people go to a morning or a noonday Ash Wednesday service and wear their ashy crosses for the rest of the day, a public statement about the beginning of their Lenten disciplines. 

But this public act does ultimately capture the longing, the interior work, and the intentionality of this season of Lent.  These crosses remind us that we will someday die, but that our deaths are only new beginnings, and that this time on earth is just a piece of the infinity of time that we will spend in the presence of God. 

These crosses remind us that the interior work of Lent is much like death—our deaths precede eternal life.  The dying of the old things that keep us away from God gives us new life in which we can share in his resurrection, both in this world as we live lives shaped by resurrection hope  and in the world to come, when our resurrections become a reality.    

And receiving this cross of ash on the forehead is the first intentional act of this season, a reminder of the importance of setting aside time and being faithful to the  disciplines we’ve chosen to help draw us closer to God. 

Many of you have heard of Fanny Crosby, one of America’s greatest hymn writers.  She was blinded at a young age by a doctor who treated her eye infection with medicine that blinded her. 

And this blindness led Fanny Crosby into a life of longing, longing to see God face to face.  Her outward blindness gave her  interior sight, and her spiritual discipline became the writing of over 8.000 poems in her lifetime, many of which were set to music and became hymns that we still sing today. 

And so as we prepare to receive our ashes, we’re going to pray by singing “I am thine O Lord, “ a poem that came to Fanny Crosby as she sat with the family of Willian Doane and they discussed the blessedness of being near to God.  He later wrote the hymn tune for this poem.  Please stand with me and turn to LEVAS 129.

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice

And it told thy love to me;

But I long to rise in the arms of faith,

And be closer drawn to thee.

Refrain

Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord

To the cross where thou has died,

Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,

To thy precious, bleeding side. 

Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord,

By the pow’r of grace divine;

Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,

And my will be lost in thine.

Refrain

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour

That before thy throne I spend,

When I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God,

 I commune as friend with friend!

Refrain

 

There are depths of love that I cannot know

Till I cross the narrow sea;

There are heights of joy that I may not reach

Till I rest in peace with thee.

Refrain

Amen.

Resource:

My Heart Sings out, Compiled and Edited by Fiona Widal-White. “In the bulb there is a flower,  by Natalie Sleeth. 

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