Sermon for Ash Wednesday

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“For [God] knoweth whereof we are made; He remembereth that we are but dust.” Thus the psalmist gives us this day a rather paradoxical argument for hope. This is “good news” we are told, but it doesn’t seem so great.

The days of man are but as grass;

for he flourisheth as a flower of the field.

For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone;

and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Keep in mind that during the period when the psalter was written, Judaism didn’t have a concept of the Resurrection of the dead. That would come later in that religion’s history, and ultimately be adopted by Christianity as well. So, what the psalmist is saying is that we should be happy that God is merciful to us and our children, but we’ll still all be dead as doornails. I don’t know about you, but that seems like cold comfort to me.

Now, in about forty days we’ll be celebrating the fact that that’s not all there is. It’s not a secret; Easter comes at the end of Lent every year so it’s probably not going to be a surprise this year. Even so, I think it’s important to abide in the truth of Ash Wednesday and Lent as much as we look forward to the glory of the Resurrection. We need to be reminded that we’re all going to die. It’s not a pleasant thought, but we’ve all got to come to terms with it.

As I said on Sunday, the experience of two years of pandemic and now the reality of war may have made this a bit more present to us, but it’s by no means easy. You might have heard me say before from this very pulpit that we live in a death denying culture. We shield ourselves from death and pretend it doesn’t exist, which is part of the reason most people die in a hospital or nursing home, and it’s probably the biggest reason we have such a huge industry dedicated to making people look younger.

But, no matter how much we try to escape it, death is real, and it’s profitable to realize this fact and keep it at least in the back of our minds. This is because we do have something to do here among these things that are passing away. The Christian life is not all about waiting until we die so we can enjoy the beatific vision. Yes, we look for the General Resurrection and the life of the world to come. Yes, we find and found our greatest hope in this Truth. But we also live in this world for a reason. We are given a short amount of time to share the love of God in Christ with our fellows. We have such a short time to get involved in the mission of the church.

This holy season in which we find ourselves is, we will be reminded again in a few moments, the time when in the Early Church adults were prepared for Baptism and penitent notorious sinners were prepared to reenter the fellowship of the Church. It was the time in which these people were reminded that life is short and we’ve got work to do if we’re going to be a people focused on mission.

And what is that mission. If you would, please open your prayerbooks to page 304… These questions will be familiar to most of you. We rehearse them at every Baptism. The first three questions are about what we believe, which is terribly important, but more apposite for our purposes today are the following five questions. They’re about what we do. Let’s rehearse them again…

Those are our marching orders, as it were. That’s what we’ve got to be involved in during our brief journey through this life. Look back over it during the next forty days. Consider how you’re already fulfilling these promises you made or that your parents and godparents made on your behalf. Consider where maybe you haven’t kept those promises. Pray about it, and be prepared to address them this Lent.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.