Ash Wednesday 2016
Pastor Mark Oldenburg, Professor of Worship and Chaplain @ Gettysburg Seminary
If the first thing you think about during Lent is “What am I gonna give up?”
Lent has a job:
Theme: God links us so closely with Christ, that we are drawn with him through death into life.
Lent is to help us see that THIS EMBRACE of God is the MOST fundamental of our lives.
There are many things that embrace our life: relationships, human love, jobs, friends, money, stuff. They are important, but not of ultimate importance.
Luther said “That thing in which you put your ultimate trust is your God.” Many things that can embrace us are important, but Lent offers us the opportunity to put things in their proper perspective, to let God be our God!
ONLY CHRIST TAKES US THROUGH DEATH TO LIFE.
4 Disciplines of Lent –turn us from all other embraces to the embrace of Christ Jesus.
Way to feed a healthy relationship is communication.
Prayer is speaking and LISTENING to God. (Perhaps more listening during Lent)
We need speed bumps to remind us to prayer.
Times during the day that are not our regular times of prayer, to remind us to pray.
Perhaps pray for anyone coming down the street.
Or anyone wearing blue coming down the street.
Face to face – hands on. Working with and for others.
Free yourself from being the center of your own life.
Free yourself from the necessity of always being in charge.
Give yourself the chance to serve.
If you can only do TWO disciplines during Lent, do these first two: Prayer and Service.
They are the two most ancient.
Get in touch with a short, meaningful, weighty passage.
(Romans text in bulletin)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:1-11 (Revised Standard Version)
Read it aloud to yourself each day, perhaps a couple of times a day.
Let it seep into your consciousness. Let St. Paul’s words speak to you.
Luther said he read and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, 10 Commandments and the Creed every single day, and learned something new EVERY DAY.
Let this passage about dying to sin and rising with Christ instruct and inform your life this Lent.
This is NOT giving up something that is bad for us. If it is bad for us, give it up anyway.
Give up something good for a little while.
Perhaps giving up something good that you can do without for a short while and you will miss, MIGHT provide that SPEED BUMP calling you to prayer good works or study.
“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
St. John Chrysostom – Ancient Christian mystic