Sermon for Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022 – the Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas

ASEP Sermons

Joel 2:1, 12-17, 21-22+Psalm 90:1-10, 12+1 Corinthians 15:45-49+Matthew 6:1-21

Padre nuestro, que estás en los cielos, Santificado sea tu Nombre.
Notre Père, qui es aux cieux, que ton nom soit sanctifié.
Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

I would be willing to wager that there are no words more familiar on this green earth than the opening of what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. From the time Matthew and Luke’s gospels were written in the latter half of the 1st century, the faithful have repeated the words that Jesus taught when gathered for worship, in private devotion, in times of joy and sorrow, and when all other words fail. These words wend their way through the foggiest of brains, when dementia or traumatic brain injury have rewired memory, the Our Father remains.

One wonders if, in its very familiarity, it has lost its impact. It is a stunning acknowledgement of our trust in God and God’s authority – Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Do you hear what we are asking for? We are praying that the little kingdoms we have built for ourselves might come tumbling down like a Jenga tower so that the reign of God might take their place. And God’s reign means that there are no gaps between rich and poor, that everyone has what they need to flourish. Bread enough just for today, not building bigger barns to make sure we are safe for tomorrow. As the Israelites did in the desert, we are saying that we trust that God will provide manna every day.

And this next one is a hard one: we pray for forgiveness and obligate ourselves to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us. Luke and Matthew both go so far as to suggest that we have to forgive in order to be forgiven ourselves. Maybe this is how we get that deliverance from the evil one, to forgive others, to love as we have been loved, not in some warm, fuzzy emotional way but in a manner that seeks the good, the welfare of others. It has nothing to do with liking them.

Now imagine that everything we pray each time we say the Lord’s Prayer, just imagine if it all came true. Wars would be no more. As it says in Revelation, “mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” (21:4). Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what God wants for us?

As we begin this Lent, when we have given up so much and sacrificed so much over the past two years, it seems a lot to ask to have to work toward such a world.

But maybe it isn’t work at all. Maybe it is just a gift, one that is freely offered to us. And all God asks is our presence, to show up and spend time in prayer, listening and longing. If the Westminster Shorter Catechism is to be believed, our chief end as humans is to glorify and enjoy God forever.

So, yes, these six weeks of Lent are a gift, inviting us to enjoy God. It is roughly a tithe of our year to spend these forty days devoted to prayer and whatever else it is that draws your heart and mind to God – fasting, journaling, drawing, walking, singing, meditating. Anything will do, as long as it is intentional and is done as a way to drown out the noise of the world, if only for a little while.

We are invited to the observance of a Holy Lent. Think of it as an engraved invitation from God. We are free to decline, but why would we?

ASEPSermon for Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022 – the Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas