I have been keeping a small blog to recap my Sunday sermons and Wednesday worship, but I had not published it anywhere except the church website. I am working on pulling it all together; you can read the story of how it came to be on the first blog post. I wanted to post it all here because we’re revamping the website and if any of you join in on the discussion of the Hebrew alphabet, it won’t make sense to start reading in the middle of the alphabet; you’ll want to go back. (At least I hope you will.) I thought I’d also include Ash Wednesday’s notes.
Since I had been an associate pastor, I never got to preach an Ash Wednesday service and it was really powerful to get to lead a congregation through this observation.
Early in the morning and at the noon hour, I prayed with people in the sanctuary and offered ashes, the symbol of our mortality and dependence on God. The food pantry people suggested I come down there and offer ashes in the prayer room, too. What a day! I came in brokenhearted because my son is having struggles in school, and I felt like I was watching someone drown. Throughout the day, when I asked, “For what shall we pray,” people often answered, “for my son,” or “for my daughter,” or “for my grandchild,” and decribed to me their feelings of worry, frustration and sadness. What a blessing to know we are not alone and we don’t need to hide.
I decided to focus the evening’s worship on letting go of burdens as we take on something – the ashes. It was quite powerful to have four members of our congregation, including one going though extremely difficult financial problems and one in a wheelchair, as they carried the stuffed burlap sacks we used as props.
I began my sermon with this list:
Remember who you are.
Remember your sister’s birthday.
Remember to wear clean underwear.
Remember to buy dog food! And milk.
Remember this number – 8991131.
Remember our veterans!
Remember the children.
Remember that cafe in Vienna?
Remember what happened last time?
Remember what they did to you and never let it happen again.
Remember the Alamo!
Remember, you were once a slave in Egypt. Be kind to the alien in your land.
What we remember determines who we are.
If you remember the harm done to you, you become bitter.
If you remember your blessings, you become grateful.
Scripture has a lot to say about remembering. The Bible says “remember” 150 times!
Scripture tells us that God does not remember our sins. And so as we considered the Hebrew letter that symbolizes time and remembering, we were challenged to stop remembering the past sins that shame us and to keep remembering this: we are going to die – which is actually good news when you consider that means two things (1) we are not God, God is God, and (2) We have one hope, the Resurrection hope Christ gave us when he went before us to the grave.