Homily: Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2018.
Being Put Back Together
Barnaby Joyce is in a bit of trouble. He must feel like he is in that dark forest with evil chasing him. Maybe he is looking for hope, for light, as his daughters and wife probably are.
Like many a politician or public figure, he has been living a double life. He’s been found out and now the consequences of his double life are coming down on him. To many an Australian citizen, this is just sheer hypocrisy – saying one thing and doing another; pretending to be upright and good at the same time as lying and damaging relationships….
Barnaby is not alone. Maybe we should be very careful in our condemnation. Why? Because the great danger and temptation in our own living a life in Christ is hypocrisy; living a ‘two-hearted”, “double-minded” life where we say one thing to others and do another thing under the radar. We can all be Barnaby in various ways.
Because of our broken and rebellious spirit that rages within, we have the capacity to be inauthentic – doing an outward show of the faith while being very much self-centred and careless of Jesus’ call to follow his way and will for us.
The Lord names this problem through his prophet Isaiah…
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. Yes, we can seem eager to know the Lord’s ways by our outward behaviour and habits of worship attendance, prayer, even fasting, but at the same time behaving in ways contrary to God’s call and will for our relationships and our community.
On the very days when we seem to be authentic in our observance of worship and practices of devotion and the like… we remain entangled in family conflict, unforgiveness with a relative or enemy, harsh treatment of someone different to us and etc, by various means satisfying the desires of body, mind and spirit in lots of ways that are not good for us or others……
4 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.
It seems for the people of Isaiah’s time, even their very religious practices of fasting and wearing of sackcloth and having ash thrown over their heads in some outward show of repentance and humility before God are a sham as they fight with each other after the Service and even come to blows!
You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. The Lord says that this hypocrisy; this double mindedness; this inauthentic way is belief and behaviour that cannot expect a gracious response from him.
The hypocrite in side gets cranky with God about this.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
“God, I am doing all this stuff for you and you are not noticing or rewarding me. God. You ow me for all my good work. Pay up!”
Can you see how our hypocrisy shows that we generally want what God can give us more than God himself. We want the good life, protection, safety, and all the rest more than we want him – a living relationship with him as our kind and loving Father who calls us to be his person where we live.
So, the Lord says to his ‘two-hearted’ people, “I am not after devotion that wants to get, I am after devotion that is real and honest; a devotion to me and people that give for my sake and theirs – not to score point with me”.
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Jesus says exactly this too.
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
So, where do people are quite capable of doing a “Barnaby Joyce” in any area of life (probably a bit less public!) go to find acceptance, forgiveness, a non-judgemental spirit and a future that can deal with our “TWO-HEARTEDNESS”?
Where do we go to address the problem and find that authentic faith where we act in God’s will – in his justice and compassion for his world?
Step 1 – “Be reconciled to God” says St Paul.
Seek God’s mercy and forgiveness knowing that it is possible to endure and triumph over your built-in hypocrisy only because…”God made Jesus Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. …..I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”.
Step 2: Believe.
The 40 days of Lent is “anti-hypocrisy therapy”! Lent is all about knowing your hypocrisy and the Lord’s forgiveness of it.
That is what either going without something valued or giving more of your self to others and the Lord in some way does. The ancient disciplines of prayer 3 or 5 times a day, giving to those in need, fasting of some treasured thing show us help us get to the truth of how we are and who we are before the Lord.
Lent is being re-established in his call to endure through it and be his man, his woman where he has placed you.
As we trust in Jesus and the work he has done to get us to God’s mercy and favour – the work we re-tell and re-live in these 40 days climaxing on Easter weekend, we are renewed. We are put back together again – re-integrated into one heart, one mind, one faith, one Father, one baptism, one Lord.
And then we find our heart is true and what comes from the heart – our words, our actions are true and of great value to others.
Step 3: See.
As we humble ourselves this evening and in these 40 days we will see more of who we are, who Jesus is and who is calling us to be, we will experience his presence and his healing.
Indeed, God promises that “your healing will quickly appear”. We will no longer be double-minded or hypocritical but in-sync and much clearer in our relationship with Jesus and each other – and so we will be the compassion and justice of Jesus for our people.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
Friends, the Lord will guide us all in our repenting, our believing and our seeing this 40 days. This is his promise.
With this promise comes the call to commit ourselves to the Lord again in these 40 days and let him help us really see his ways and his will for us as individuals and as his local church community here.
11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
He is that hope. He is here waiting for you. He lets you stay. He will restore.