I recently heard that the majority of people who make New Year’s resolutions will break them by six weeks into the new year. This year, that takes us to Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent. For those of you who gave up on that New Year’s Resolution long before February and need something else to commit to…it’s not uncommon for people to give up something for Lent. Christians of all persuasions – not just Catholics. What’s it going to be? Chocolate? Coffee? Wine, beer, soda? You name it… Some people sign off of social media for 6 weeks – no more Facebook or Snapchat. Not such a bad idea, if you ask me… Need a list?
As we begin this Lenten journey, our lessons this morning are filled with rich images of water. Baptismal images. Water that nurtures and sustains life. But there is such a thing as getting too little or too much water. We hear countless stories of the destructive power of water – and the absence resulting in drought causing devastation and hardship. Even so, water is an essential part of creation.
In Genesis, the world was overcome by the water in the days of Noah…and yet the writer of First Peter reminds us that God delivers Noah and his family from death…and connects the flood with baptism as a sign of deliverance. In our Gospel, after Jesus is baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descends on him and immediately he’s driven into the wilderness – to a place void of water, to the desert, for 40 days. But even in the desert, there is life.
Much of my time these past few weeks has been spent with families in crisis. Hard conversations – helping them make decisions, and talking about priorities, without sacrificing what matters most. Instrumental to most folks – is faith…and let’s be honest – people want to have control over their life. Then comes the reminder, a call back to reality – that we’re not in charge. It’s about God and God’s time for us. Coming together – being joined to Christ – is the very heart of the Ash Wednesday lessons. They call us to live our lives as a faithful response for all that God has done.
The beautiful passage from Isaiah that we just heard has a powerful invitation that stands in contradiction to all the constant noise that we hear around us. It is a clear reminder again that our Christian faith is counter cultural. Isaiah’s message 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.” And in so doing you will be called the “repairer of the breach” – the repairer of the world. Paul says it plainly and clearly – “You’re ambassadors for Christ…for God’s sake, act like it.” Live your life as a witness claiming the hope and the promise of your baptism that was won for you on Easter.
Gathering – coming together in faith – is finally why we are here today. Because at the end of the day it’s not about what we do, but about what Christ has done for us.
In our Gospel reading this morning, the nameless woman known only as Simon’s mother-in-law, wastes no time getting up and serving Jesus and his disciples after she’s healed… She doesn’t question what’s happened to her or wonder who Jesus is. Instead, she sees the gift and the miracle of his touch that changes her life…
She recognizes Jesus as the incarnation of God who comes to her – real flesh and blood. It’s his touch that makes her whole. It’s simply his touch that heals her.
In the beautiful and vivid words of the Isaiah text, we see the power of God – in the image of a soaring eagle. The strength that God gives to those who are most vulnerable – people who are helpless and voiceless. God is revealed to the people who have lived through the exile – and it’s their faith and perseverance that gets them through.