Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Now! “Now is the acceptable time.” Now! Joel, the prophet, who like all the prophets said that God is unhappy with the way the Israelites are living, tells them that even now if you turn around, even now, if right now you change, repent, things could be different. NOW! Now is such a strong word, especially for those of us who are procrastinators.
It is a reminder that is now is the time. The paper you have been putting off writing is due now. The job you haven’t finished is due now. The phone call you have been meaning to make needs to be done NOW. There is no time. It is right now.
Because the truth is, that is all we have. All we have is now. It is Ash Wednesday. After my sermon I will bless ashes and put them on each person’s forehead. Each time I put them on I will say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return. I will do that with those who are older, with those who are in mid life and with the children who come forward. It is a reminder that this body in the not too distant future will be dust.
It is sobering. It reminds us of our mortality. The church every year has this service so that no one forgets and everyone remembers that all we really have is now. Some of us here now may live 50, 60 even 70 more years. Some may die in a year, some in a month, and maybe some won’t make it through the night. None of us know. All we have is now.
And what are we to do now? What Paul tells us we are to do now is to be reconciled to God. To be reconciled, what does that mean? Reconciliation means being in right relationship and that is really what sin is about. Sin is about not living in a right relationship. Not living in a right relationship with God, not living in a right relationship with other people, or not living in a right relationship with yourself.
So tonight, at the beginning of Lent, we are reminded that NOW is the time to get things right. Now is the time to reflect upon our relationships and see what needs to change. Who needs to be contacted? Do you have a brother or sister you haven’t spoken with that needs a call? Or a neighbor that you had a fight with and you need to make up with? Or perhaps you are not in right relationship with yourself. I’ve noticed that most of the time when people say that they are going to give something up for Lent the thing they are giving up for lent is something they really should give up for the rest of their lives. (Except of course chocolate.)
What I mean is that when someone says, “I’m going give up smoking for Lent” I think, “Good start,” but I hope you never smoke again. You are not in right relationship with yourself if you are hurting yourself. And now is the time to look at whether you are treating yourself the way you would want to treat others. If you are working too much, now is the time to reconsider. If you are finding yourself sitting around too much, now is the time to start walking. If you are ignoring feelings, now is the time to understand them and express them. If you find yourself in a situation that is not healthy for you, now is the time to love yourself and be in right relationship with you.
I started out by talking about our mortality. This service begins with the Ashes and the reminder that we are mortal, at least that our bodies are mortal, But the service ends with the Eucharist, with the Holy Communion, in which we remember that Christ died for us so that we will never die. So there is some part of us that lives, that is beyond the dust that makes us up. Through God’s mercy and in God’s love we are promised not just forgiveness, but everlasting life. And NOW, right now is the right time to be reconciled to God and your neighbor and yourself.
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