First reading: Joel 2:12-18
Psalm: Ps 51:3-6,12-14,17
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
Focus (this morning):
Today, the first day of Lent. After three weeks of preparation you would think I would wake up ready to go. Well, this morning was not that kind of morning. Instead of waking prepared with Lent in my heart and mind, I woke in a haze. I focused on what I normally am, rather than what I should be becoming. I was self-focused. In the midst of preparing chicken and baloney sandwiches it finally hit me — it is Ash Wednesday.
It wasn’t just the no meat Lenten sacrifice, it was the sudden realization that I had a long way to go this Lent. It would be a journey from inward self-sufficiency, self-focus, to becoming emptied.
Think of an iron bar. It is strong, complete, self-sufficient. You cannot add anything to it or change its nature. It is what it is.
Think now of a musical instrument: woodwinds, brass, guitars, or violins. These instruments are hollow. Their emptiness is intentional. These instruments are empty so that they may reflect what their master does – produce and echo music that is beautiful.
For my part, and for many of us, we exist like iron bars. We are who we are. We feel rather complete and total, solid, self-sufficient. Our task this Lent is to change from iron bars to musical instruments.
Process of emptying:
Lent is a process of emptying, of moving from the iron bar to a state of emptiness, away from self to becoming a reflection of God’s music, God’s light, God’s way.
Full of God:
In Lent we work to empty ourselves so that we become full of God. We work to reflect His light and His music. We recognize once again that He is the Master of our lives. We wipe the sleep from our eyes and clear the fog from our heads so that we can see our lives as part of God’s life; God who exists within us and within our brothers and sisters.
We are not separated, God here, us there. We are unified, together.
Lent gives us the opportunity to have God once again permeate, fill, encompass and saturate our thoughts and actions, our words, our deeds.
St. Paul reminds us that we cannot be self-sufficient iron bars because:
He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:15).
We have to live with a focus on being filled by God.
Full of family:
If you read the sign outside the church, you will note that our theme for Lent is God’s cell therapy. In Jesus we have been changed from a random group of individuals to adopted children of God, and brothers and sisters in faith. Our old mortal cells are being replaced and we are a new being, a new people, and members of one family of faith in Jesus Christ.
We must empty ourselves so that we become better family members. This is not just to our immediate or biological family, but to all the members of the family of God.
Throughout Lent we will focus on what makes us family, as well as the joys and responsibilities as members of the family of God.
Today we begin the process of reconciling, of emptying ourselves. Things like our Lenten self denial and sacrifice are makers along the road toward our becoming the people we ought to be. We are changing from iron bars – but we will not become empty, music-less instruments either. We will become, by the time we reach Easter, and for the days ahead in our lives, members of God’s family, each others brothers and sisters, and gloriously, the reflection of God’s light and music in the world.
Our work, the road ahead is not without a promised reward. That promise is from God – that we will enter life everlasting as one family, as one people, as God’s children and as brothers and sisters. We have our inheritance before us. It won’t be paid out to iron bars, but to family filled with the light and music of God. Amen.