RCL Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2 and 12-17, Psalm 103:8-14, 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10, Saint Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21
This evening we have left our homes to come out at night to assemble as a community of faith in an increasingly secular world to begin together to keep the solemn season of Lent. That’s a mouthful, I know. But it is true.
Our focus needs to be on two things at once. We need to look or to monitor ourselves as individuals and as a community of faith that stretches around the earth. For every one of us functions in two dimensions, as an individual and as a part of a larger community.
The Lord Jesus in the Gospel today gives us a lot of advice about the practice of our religion but especially about three things: giving alms, praying, and fasting. In the case of each of these, he dives to the individual person’s heart and tries or refines the individual’s heart.
When we as individuals give alms, we are to give them in secret. When we pray, we are to go into our room, shut the door, and pray to our Father who is in secret. When we fast, we are to put oil on our heads, wash our faces, and otherwise present the image of someone who is not a victim of virtue. Our fasting is to be seen by our Father alone who is in secret.
In other words, we are to practice our religion in a kind of secrecy, the kind of secrecy that gives God alone a view to what we are doing or what we are not doing. This is a great responsibility, for it gives a deceiver among us the cover to do absolutely nothing. But if there is a deceiver among us, that deceiver will be known by God.
I want to suggest to you that in the Body of Christ and in the communion of saints that what we do as individuals affects us as individuals and also as a community. I am in part what you do and what you believe. You are in part what I do and what I believe. In the realm of the Spirit and as members of Christ’s Body the Church, we depend on one another. We are connected in ways the world cannot perceive and cannot appreciate.
And so, I want to suggest to you that how you give alms, how you pray, and how you fast affect each and every one of us. I exhort each one of you to keep a holy and a costly Lent in such a way that each one of us may be strengthened and that each one of us may find our faith increased. We are doing this together for God, for each other, and for ourselves. For the care that a mother has for her children is the care we can show each other in the love God has shown us.