Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Ash Wednesday/Year C/March 6, 2109
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Mother Hymes’ Ash Wednesday sermon this evening.
Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Welcome. You are entering sacred space. Disconnect from the world out there and connect to the holy in here. Some of you may be thinking, “That sounds familiar.” It should sound familiar. It is the message on the huge 24×36 sign at the threshold of the sanctuary. It is intended to communicate the importance of intentionally distinguishing between the mundane and the holy when one crosses over the church’s threshold from the world “out there.” By doing something as simple as turning off the phone, one makes the first move in being fully present with God and with the faith community. Connecting to the holy requires that makes time and space for silence, inviting intimacy and vulnerability in the presence of God.
You are entering sacred space. Disconnect from the world out there and connect to the holy in here. This message has depth beyond, “turn off the phone.” The message speaks to the invisible spiritual self. The human soul “in here” is sacred space—connect to it. It is in this precious space that one nurtures ideal conditions for one-on-one holy conversations with God, through the disciplines of intentional prayer, reading holy Scripture, simply being.
In our Gospel message, Jesus warns us about keeping our focus on God. He says be careful about trying to impress people “out there” with your piety and goodness; don’t cause a big scene “out there” when you are generous to others in order to be praised; don’t look pitiful “out there” when you fast in order to garner praise from others for your commitment to the discipline. “But whenever you pray,” says Jesus, “Go into your room and the shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Jesus is talking about the spiritual work, the work of the soul that is necessarily a private and unique partnership with God in fully restoring you–His beloved creation—to himself.
Jesus’ admonition to “…go into your room and the shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…” is first, about turning away from the distractions of this world which distance and distort the soul’s relationship with God, “in here.”
I recently overheard someone sharing a testimony about their life’s journey with a friend. At the end of that testimony of surviving a particularly difficult life, the person said, “Thank God I don’t look like the scars I carry.” The person had come out on the other side of their own spiritual wilderness journey with invisible scars that, for them, served as reminders of God’s powerful action in their lives.
So many long for healing from the suffering of long-carried wounds of the soul that have yet to be healed. Whether or not the wounds are externally inflicted or self-inflicted—they actively affect one’s ability to be fully present in order to nurture deeper relationship with family, friends, colleagues, strangers—and God.
Lent is a time to tend to the work of spiritual triage—to confront wounds of grievance, guilt, shame, unforgiveness and grief—and to leave them at the foot of the cross. Turn away from that which wounds and turn towards the healer and lover of all souls.
Shortly, we will be marked with ashes made in the sign of a cross on our foreheads. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence, and will remind us of our need for God, and of God’s call to us.
The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and God’s ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we choose to offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent—necessary preparation for the celebration of Easter.
On this first day of Lent, you are invited to enter into the triage unit of our own soul. Intimately participate in God’s powerful process of soul healing from woundedness to wholeness, and emerge as a living testimony to God’s faithfulness.
May this holy season of Lent offer you safe space to practice turning first to God, the soul healer, in all things. Disconnect from the world “out there” and connect to the holy “in here.”