Ash Wednesday Homily, Wednesday March 5, 2014.
Into the wilderness
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Giving to the Needy6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Prayer5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Fasting16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Treasures in Heaven19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Have you ever felt as though you have lost contact with someone you love – not because of distance or time apart but because of distraction, busyness and living too much and too long in your own little world?
As the year gets into swing the relaxing time, the laughter, the time to just be together and enjoy life an all it has to offer with a deep sense of gratitude to God for the people you love, the life you have, the health you have just seems to vanish. Not immediately. It takes a while.
There are things to do, problems to deal with, decisions to make and you realise that;
Instead of clarity about things that you had just a little while ago, there is confusion and endless distractions.
Instead of intimacy and friendship and appreciation of others there is endless busyness.
Instead of a heart centred on your Saviour and his word and his gifts and his calling, there is the world – immediate and loud.
There is an opportunity now to regain that time of drinking deeply from the water of life – Jesus.
Lent is that opportunity; and opportunity to be led from distraction to clarity again, from busyness to closeness with your heavenly Father again, from the worldly chaos to the grace of the Cross of Christ.
A doorway is opening for renewal and refreshment in your Saviour. But, you have to be prepared to go into the wilderness.
The wilderness of seeking the deeper things; the wilderness of feeling separate to others and those who don’t follow the Saviour yet; the wilderness of singular attention to and trust in His Word.
The wilderness was not punishment for Jesus and neither is it for us. The wilderness is the place of preparation of the soul where all else that is less important vanishes and only the cross of Jesus remains – towering over us as The sign of God’s presence and love.
We are called to be led by the Spirit into a time of wilderness – a time of preparation for the soul – preparation for the newness.
So, do you want the newness that the wilderness journey brings – new closeness to your Saviour, new reliance and rest in his Word, new appreciation of who you are, whose you are and the gifts you have from your Lord?
With this wilderness journey into disciplined focus on the Word of God, will come new joy – the joy of an open heart toward those you love, the ability to forgive those who have wronged you, the compassion to serve as Christ himself serves – emptying himself of his own power and glory and serving sinners in love.
And how shall we enter the journey and receive newness in Christ?
He tells us…
Give to others in a new way, an intentional way, a hard way.
Pray his prayer – the Lord’s prayer, pray with another, pray here, pray for each member of your family by name through Lent. Pray for each person on the St Petri membership booklet by name through Lent, pray a psalm a day for 40 days…
Fast – Deny yourself a pleasure or two a day a week, weekdays, Sundays…….
NOT INSTANT OR KNOWN
All of this is to be done in secret without reward or gratification.
All of this will bring to you the newness of not worrying about your life and a new appreciation of God’s extensive provision around you – in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
This appreciation and reliance on the Lord’s Word will bring an ability to truly love and be loved by those around you because your heart will be less set on yourself and your own worry.
Easter will be the trigger for genuine joy to fill your heart.
Let’s take the ashen cross and walk into 40 days with Christ. let’s repent: turn away from our vices and our busyness and distraction – not with our own will power but by inviting in the Spirit and the Word of Christ and trusthim to do his renewing work.
Let’s allow the Spirit to prepare us for newness of joy in believing this Easter.