Ash Wednesday at St Mark Church in Norman, OK
March 5, 2003
Joel 2:12-18 + 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 + Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The first words of this great and holy season come from God himself. It is Joel who gives voice to the longing of God, who calls us together and asks us to look up from the cares of this day, the troubles of this year, and the long season of violence and disaster that seems to have settled upon us.
It’s as though a thousand voices were moaning and crying, weeping and lamenting, groaning and sobbing out of disappointment and fear, loneliness and sorrow. One voice is heard above all the others, one voice that says: Come back to me.
The media loudly tempts us with glamour and pleasure, The culture calls us to wealth, power, and independence. Pride seduces us to look out for number one. Fear whispers in our ear that there might not be enough, “keep it” “save it” “hold it.” Pleasure lures us to eat, to drink, to pleasure in another because it makes us feel good and there is so much pain. Envy beckons to see what others have without thought of our own gifts. And anger roars inside us ready to lash out at the simplest offence.
Above all that din one voice calls to us: “Come back to me.” One prophet reminds us that our only recourse is to God. Only God brings peace, quiets the noise, and stirs our Joy. The prophet speaks of a trumpet call and he rallies us to action. Notice that the call is to all of us, the whole church, not just one or two here or there. This season is no lonely struggle for individuals; but a collective, common effort of all God’s people. The struggle against sin is not one we win alone, for our victory is found only in our oneness in the Body of Christ. Just as each one’s sins affect the rest, so do each one’s good works bring hope and comfort to all.
It begins now, our forty days of renewal, our time to make simpler these complicated lives that pull us in every direction at once day in and day out. Lives that seem to have no focus, no direction, and no centers are lives that cause others to say: “Where is their God.”
Now it begins with one voice: “Come back to me.” It says. “Come back to me with all your heart.”