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Homily for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-13
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14, 17 (3a)
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Matthew 6;1-6, 16-18
February 26, 2020

We are here today because a fast has been proclaimed and we have been called to gather as an assembly.  We are called to gather one and all. 

Why?

Because we have sinned.

There have been times when we have turned away from God.  We do this as individuals, each struggling against temptation.  We also sin as a people, not holding as a people to God’s ways. 

We have turned away from God but He has not turned away from us.  He calls us to return to him with our whole hearts.  He calls us to rend our hearts.  We do this with “weeping and mourning” because we are sorry for our sins.

We do this with fasting.  It’s not that the fasting makes up for our sins.  The fasting is to be a sign of our repentance, our desire to turn back to God.  In fasting, we are saying we put God first over the things of this world.

Are we willing to admit our sins?  Do we recognize that only God can cleanse of our sins, that only God can create a “clean heart” in us?

Do we recognize that we can’t atone for our sins on our own?  God doesn’t have to forgive us but He does because He is merciful.

Knowing this, we cry out, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

It is with all this in mind that we gather today to begin our season of Lent.  We gather as an assembly to admit our sins and admit our need for forgiveness and mercy.

We gather publicly.  Does this contradict what Jesus says in the gospel about not doing these things to be seen?

That depends. 

Why are you here? 

Are you here in order that others see you here?  Are you here to win the praise of others?  Are you here in order for others to see you pray?  Are you here so others know you have been fasting?

I think “motive” is key here.  We are not here “to win the praise of others.”  We are here to admit our sinfulness.  We are here to admit we need the help of God and we need the prayers of each other.

We need to perform “righteous deeds.”  We need to give alms according to our means.  We need to pray.  We do these things not for human praise.  Rather we do them recognize our need for God and in gratitude for the blessings God has given us.

We come in recognition of our need for God’s mercy.  So, some might interpret our motives as purely selfish. 

Yes, we come to acknowledge our sins.  We come to receive mercy.  But it should not be simply about mercy for ourselves. 

Paul speaks of being “ambassadors for Christ.”  As “ambassadors” we are to tell others about Christ.  We are to tell others that God is merciful.  We are to tell others that Jesus died for our sins and that He is willing to show mercy to all.

What do we pray in the Lord’s Prayer?  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 

So, let us pray for God’s mercy upon all his people. 

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