Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2017)
- First reading
- Second reading
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 | New Living Translation (NLT)
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
6 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,and by our sincere love. 7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
Today is the first day of Lent. Lent is the Latin word for Spring. Over the last couple years, I have really begun to appreciate the value of this season. Here in northwest Pennsylvania, we are in the middle of a spring-like stretch of weather. Not sure what to do with that. I remember some Lenten seasons when we were in the capital region of New York, when there was snow on the ground on the first day of March and we had snow on some of the days we had services. This is quite different.
I’ve often referred to Lent as Spring Training for Christians. It is a season of preparation, much like Advent is a season of preparation. Advent is a preparation for Christmas and Lent is a preparation for Easter. In the early days of the church, the season of Lent was a time of preparation for new converts as they readied their hearts to enter into Christian baptism on Easter Sunday. Since these new members were to be received into a living community of faith, the entire community was called to preparation.
Lent is a forty day journey – from Ash Wednesday to Easter – not including Sundays, that includes prayer, fasting, self-examination and penitence. This season reminds us how much we need grace in our lives in order to live a transformed life that reflects God’s love. We are called to renew our commitments and our faith as we continually acknowledge our need of God’s transforming presence with us.
This morning our scripture is a reminder that God is working through us to call others back to God in an act of reconciliation. As Paul reminds us God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with Christ. Today is the day of salvation.
I love Paul’s words – we live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us. Further down in 8, we have these words, “We are honest, but they call us imposters. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
I would encourage you to read the rest. It sums up what we are to do as ministers of the Gospel and as believers. I think it also sums up what Lent is all about.