Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday Message

1 Timothy 6: 6-19
Daniel 9: 3-6, 17-19

Today is the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. We receive ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross as a symbol of our penitence for our sins and of our frailty and vulnerability. It is a common practice in Lent for Christians to give up a favorite food or entertainment or other self-gratifying practice as a symbol of our identity with the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Nevertheless, it is merely a symbol. I do not take symbolism lightly, as I understand symbols to be the primary means that we orient ourselves in proper relationship to God and creation, and so for me to say that lenten sacrifice is "merely a symbol" points to a reality yet more profound.

Indeed, I invite you today to another lenten discipline. I began this practice after M.P. Joseph informed those of us taking his "Contextual Theologies of the Third World" course that 33,000 people die every day of hunger. I had heard such statistics before, but for some reason it never stuck until M.P. said it. 33,000 people die each day of a predicament that is imminently curable. 33,000 people. And so every morning during morning prayer I pray for the 33,000 people who will die during the course of the coming day of hunger. And every evening during evening prayer I pray for the 33,000 people who have died over the course of the closing day of hunger. I invite you to join me in praying for these people. By the time we gather together on Sunday morning for worship 132,000 people will have died. By the time Easter rolls around and we celebrate the resurrection of Christ 1,320,000 people will have died. I should mention, while the church traditionally takes Sundays off from fasting, hunger is not so considerate.

We confess that we have no righteousness to present before God in supplication. Nevertheless, God's mercy is great. May this practice be for us an aid in the pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. We who have food and clothing should be content with these in abundance but not in surplus. Perhaps this practice will bear fruit in us in the cultivation of a spirituality of "enoughness."

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