Some preachers begin their sermons with a reflection, a prayer or confession. On Ash Wednesday, it’s important to begin with a reminder about Lent. It’s not a time of self-sacrifice or punishment… or time to relive past grievances. Rather, Lent is a time to let go of all of the things that hold us back and prevent us from what God needs of us. It’s a time to look more deeply at our own self; where we are here and now, in our own lives.
Midst all of this time of reflection and self-examination, Lent is also a time to remember that God loves us in spite of ourselves and despite what we do … God loves the sinful, human people that we are today – tomorrow – and long beyond this Lenten journey. Jesus allows us to know the grace and love of God by becoming our sin by his sacrifice on the cross.
Our lessons for today call us to live our lives as a faithful response for all that God has done. Beautiful Isaiah has a powerful invitation that stands in contradiction to all the noise that we hear around us. It is a clear reminder once again that our Christian faith is counter-cultural. Isaiah says it simply “…offer your food to the hungry…satisfy the needs of the afflicted…loose the bonds of injustice…house the homeless…cover the naked.”
Paul tells us: “You’re ambassadors for Christ, act like it.” Live your life as a witness claiming the hope and the promise of your baptism won for you on Easter.
Christ, the hope and light – the Dust in the Darkness – is why we are here today. Because at the end of the day, in the darkness of our own life, it’s not about what we do, but about what Christ has done for us. Midst all the noise and distortions of what the Christian faith is about, it is no more basic than understanding that the Son of God sacrificially lived one life and wound up executed so that our sins would be forgiven.
We are loved that much. God loves us that much.
As we begin this Lenten journey, we are confronted with our own failings, struggling to become who we are as we wear the sign of Christ’s love for us. We are sent on our journey knowing of his love and sent to seek the cross outside in the midst of the fractured and often times messiness of our lives and the world. Lent moves us closer to being the suffering and resurrected body of Christ in the world. Along the way, in the midst of our journey, we find hope in faithfulness, and strength in faith.
It’s a journey that we don’t take alone, but one we take together, with Christ.