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Friday, March 07, 2014

5 MARCH 2014 – ASH WEDNESDAY



Shared Homily Starter



First Reading:
Joel 2.12-18
Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5.20-6.2
Gospel
Matthew 6.1-8, 16-18

 
In today’s first reading we heard “rend your hearts and not your clothing.”  Similarly, in the Gospel, we heard, “Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”  The first reading and the gospel are advising us to attend to and do our inner work without outer displays─ without the desire for praise from others.  Through the years, most of you have heard a variety of sermons on today’s Gospel.  So instead of preaching on the Gospel, today, I’m going to talk about the second reading from 2 Corinthians, keeping in mind the spirit of the first reading and the Gospel. 

Paul starts with declaring that we are ambassadors for Christ.  Ambassadors function to represent and protect the interest of the sending state.  In this case, the sending state is the Household of God.  Ambassadors promote peaceful relations.  More importantly, ambassadors for Christ must always have respect for their hosts and use diplomacy not force or coercion to disseminate information about their faith.  Therefore as ambassadors of Christ we are called to spread the good new of Christ by actions of and for justice rather that by our words or acts of outward piety.  It is through our promotion of justice that we become the righteousness of God─ or more correctly the justice of God.

Paul declares, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”  James Baldwin puts what Paul says in contemporary terms, when he says “There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.”  However, I think, to work out our salvation, we must take another look at our understanding of salvation. 

The English word “salvation” comes from the Latin salvus, which means whole, safe, healthy and ─uninjured.  Looked at this way, we can see that Jesus came to heal us, that is, to make─ not only us but all of creation─ whole.  So, just like when we have a headache, or a cold or the flu, we don’t wait for some time in the future to work on returning to health.  We do it as soon as we are aware that we’re ill.  Likewise, the work on our inner and ongoing conversion to healthy members of God’s household, begins now.

Paul tells us we are to work together with Christ and urges us not to accept the grace of God in vain.  We are to use the grace God has given us to work on our ongoing transformation, so that as transformed people, we transform people.  By transform people, I don’t mean we are to try to convert to people to our faith. I mean that as we transform ourselves, we join in the great snow ball of transformation that God’s love has activated in the world.  Therefore, spiritual exercises such as alms-giving, prayer, fasting and other practices are not ends in themselves.  They are to open our hearts and our minds to the healing power of God.  They help break open our hearts.  Open hearts enable the Holy Spirit within us to expand so that we become co-creators with our God in the renewal of the Earth.  As that happens, we come to realize that salvation is the healing journey to which all of humanity is invited─ the journey to wholeness that Jesus came to teach us. 

Please share your thoughts.

 

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