Ash Wednesday – March 9, 2011
Our Shepherd Lutheran Church – Severna Park, MD
For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters. You didn’t expect me to say that did you? Let me say it again. For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters.
You received a reminder of your mortality on your forehead just minutes ago. You heard the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As I see it, you have a couple of choices. Live your life as if your mortality is a far off into the future slight possibility. Or, live your life as if your life matters, precisely because you are mortal.
What people want me to do today is to be a cheerleader. You are giving up chocolate for Lent? Great! You can do it for 40 days. It will be hard. Hang in there. You can do it. It is only 40 days. Think of the reward at the end! It will be worth it.
I can’t do that. I’d rather turn in my pastor card.
Let me tell you something else you might not expect me to say. What we do during Lent is never meant to be temporary. That’s right. If you are living this season as it is intended and you are giving up, oh let’s say chocolate for Lent, then when Easter arrives, there will be no chocolate Easter bunnies for you. Why play like Lent means nothing? Why decide to ignore the call Jesus issues to obedience?
Live your life as if your life matters. Lent is a time for renewal. Lent is a time to take on some spiritual disciplines that make sense 24/7/52/lifetime. Lent is a time for making sure the “whenevers” of Matthew’s Gospel are part of who we are.
Whenever you give alms. Whenever you pray. Whenever you fast.
Jesus doesn’t say, if you give alms, if you pray, if you fast. He doesn’t say when you take the time to give alms, pray, or fast. The expectation is that these three are all done, all the time, unnoticed by others, because this is what people of faith do when they are living their lives as if their life matters.
Whenever you care for the needs of others … just do it without fanfare or recognition. It’s what people of God do.
Whenever you pray to align yourself with God … just do it without any need for recognition. It’s what people of God do.
Whenever you deny the temptations that draw you away from God … just do it without needing to draw attention to yourself. It’s what people of God do.
If you give alms, pray, and fast only during Lent, isn’t that really drawing attention to these practices and that you are something special during Lent?
Sorry if what I’m saying is messing up your plans for Lent. I simply want you to live your life as if your life matters. Why trivialize it? Why make this 40 day time mean so little?
The church I served in Johnstown invites people to use self-denial envelopes during Lent. I think they are asking either 25 cents or $1 per day as a means of self-denial. Horse feathers! You want to give alms, or to use this as self-denial … what about giving a full tithe during Lent if you’ve never done this before? More than a tithe if you already tithe. Maybe an even amount … say $80-100 a week. A quarter a week? Nonsense. Live as if your life matters.
Pull out a 1 minute devotion and pray daily during Lent? Ok, I suppose that’s a start. Phfff. Write a devotion daily, pray each hour on the hour for 5 minutes, memorize scripture … maybe a couple of chapters, read 20 pages of scripture a day, read a Gospel book a week and cycle through them twice during Lent. All of this is prayer. All of this addresses a whenever. Live as if your life matters.
Don’t eat meat on Fridays, but instead go to some fish fry or seafood place? When did that ever get to be equated with fasting? Stop pretending! Do you really need more than 1500-2000 calories a day, ever? Have you ever considered eating a restricted calorie diet because it is the right thing to do, because over-consumption of everything is an American anti-Christian attitude? Does our gluttony say something about how we see ourselves as entitled? Is entitlement a Christian virtue? Live your life as if it matters.
There are a lot more examples. You can use Lent as a trivial venture into pretending that we are mortal. Or you can use Lent as if you really get your mortality and live as if your life matters. What you do has an impact on the world, on the people around you, on you, and on your relationship with God.
For the next 40 days, you are invited to live your life as if your life matters … and then …