Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Homily, 2011

Looking Toward LENT

A Song of Christ the Servant (1 Peter 2: 21b-25)

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return
 

When he suffered, he did not threaten;
but he trusted to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep,
but have now returned
to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
 
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and will be forever. Amen.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD

Today we begin the LENTEN Season. Today we begin a journey together. Today we look toward Resurrection Sunday, but we do so not with the stare of triumph and the voice of the victory song.

No, we begin this journey with a serious and steady gaze inward at the state of our heart.  We begin by staring into the depth of our soul and seeing what really resides there.

And when we look, what do we find?

Often we find sloth, and sin and the triumph of self. Often what we find in ourselves are those things we like least about who we are. Often what we see are those things we wish were gone from us. This means there is a heaviness about LENT. This means LENT comes to us with the heaviness of the carried cross.

LENT, a word which comes from the German for springtime, can be viewed as a season of spiritual spring-cleaning. It is a season for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with the Christ, and our service to him.

If we seriously pay heed to the forty days of LENT, therefore, we will pattern ourselves after Jesus who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty-days prior to the onset of his public ministry. Jesus in the desert leads us to a time of serious heart-preparation, and it involves personal soul-searching and an honest, clear-eyed assessment of the state of our relationship with the GOD who is there. Here the desert Christ offers us a season to renew our practices of Christ-likeness.

LENT, therefore, reminds us that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price and we are called to glorify GOD with our bodies and with our lives. LENT reminds us that we are not to become weary in well-doing, and that we will reap the the peaceful fruit of righteousness if we do not faint. LENT reminds us to keep our eyes on the Christ, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. LENT reminds us that we must run this race with endurance and patience, looking to the one who is the author and finisher of our faith. And LENT reminds us that we can do all things, but only through the Christ who strengthens us.

How, then, do we make a good LENT? How do we do this serious heart-preparation and this clear-eyed assessment?

The traditional practices associated with the Lenten season are fasting, the denial of the self, Godly repentance, daily conversion, sharing our resources with the other, and a simplicity of life.  These practices bring us an ancient wisdom, a wisdom that enables us to remove the emphasis from the self to the other. In short, LENT is about self-sacrifice and the way of the cross.