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2/25/2009 - Ash Wednesday - The Rev. Susan N. Blue

posted May 21, 2010, 6:22 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:23 PM by Terry Brady ]
“Yet even now, says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Joel2:12-13)

Today we begin the most holy season of the Church year, the great forty days of Lent that culminate in Holy Week and Easter Sunday. It is a time of intense self-evaluation for us as individuals and as a community. During Lent we are charged to pray, fast and give alms as we make ourselves vulnerable to God and to one another. It is a time to allow ourselves to be broken open, to examine what we find, and to return to God and that which is ultimately important.
In 1998, my first Ash Wednesday here, I shared a story that illustrates how many of us come to this time. I hope those of you who were here that day will not mind having it repeated. John Stanford, the son of an Episcopal priest, talked of growing up in a New Hampshire farmhouse. It had no electricity or indoor plumbing. Water was drawn from an old well outside the front door. Even in the heat of the summer it was never dry, but always pure and sparkling.
The day came when renovations were necessary. An artesian well was dug and the old well sealed as a reserve. Several years later John decided to check the well. When he opened it, he discovered that it was dry. He had this to say:

“It took many inquiries on my part to understand what had happened. A well of this kind is fed by hundreds of tiny underground rivulets along which seeps a constant supply of water. As water is drawn from the well, more water moves into it along the rivulets, keeping these tiny apertures clear and open. When such a well is not used, however, and the water is not regularly drawn, the tiny rivulets close up. Our well, which had run without failing for so many years, was dry, not because there was no water but because it had not been used.” (John Sanford, The Kingdom Within, p. 8; via The Rev. Barry Johnson, 5/8/88.)

My suspicion is that this is what happens when we become distracted from God and overly focused on the secular. It has been said we give alms to show that we are not defined by our possessions. In doing so, we admit our own poverty and deadness. We fast to get in touch with our own hunger, a hunger that most of us cover with busyness and addictions. In doing so we are reminded that God is the only source that can feed our hunger. Finally, we return to prayer – prayer that forces us to look at our distance from God. We need all of these for our journey to the cross. (Copied: Martin Smith)
In a way, as we are distanced from God we are cut off from our true home. Lent gives us an opportunity to return, to come home to ourselves and to our Creator as we walk with Jesus on the tragic journey to the cross. When the psalmist says “create in me a clean heart” he is being called to remember his true home, his home with God.
This is a time to be reconciled to God and also to one another. It is painful to forgive, and we often cannot forget. Not forgiving, however, means we carry a deep and unnecessary burden. We become even more vulnerable when we ask for forgiveness, when we admit our fault and our sorrow.
I invite you to come home with me to God – to go to that place where we are loved abundantly and charged to be transformed into the goodness for which we were created. Let us as a community find this a time of renewal and new birth so that, when Easter Sunday arrives, we can celebrate with the joyful sounds of the forgiven. AMEN