Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Grace without Obstacles - A Homily for Ash Wednesday, 2013

Homily for Ash Wednesday, 2013
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way.”
-2 Cor. 6:3

As we embark on our Lenten journey, our thoughts will inevitably turn to what we shall give up, or what discipline shall we take on.  We will begin with good intentions, but as with our failed New Year’s resolutions, we shall find ourselves faltering, and perhaps even abandoning our disciplines before the forty days are over.  Perhaps the problem is that we give undo attention to the discipline, itself.  Perhaps the problem is that we allow the discipline to be the focus of Lent, rather than being the means upon which we focus on Christ.  Lent is about one thing, and one thing alone, turning again to Christ.  Nothing should stand in the way of this one goal.

We ought never to lose sight of this goal during our Lenten journey, and indeed, we ought never to lose sight of this goal during the whole of our Christian life.  Yet, we are mortals formed of the earth. We are but dust.  Our best intentions are fleeting and we lose sight of our purpose oh so frequently.  We are mere mortals with all the selfishness that comes from being mortals.  We are inclined to forget that we are mere creatures.  We place ourselves at the centre of the universe and we fail to account for the destructive nature of our actions and our selfishness.  Most of all, we are inclined to forget about the God who created us.
Lent is a time to turn again to God.  Yet, having become so selfishly inclined, having turned away again from our Lord, how can we even know we need to seek him?  God seems so distant at times.  Perhaps, though, God only seems distant because we push him to the fringes of our life.  But God is not distant.  God, recognizing the gaping chasm between creator and created, sought to bridge that chasm by becoming man.  God, in Christ Jesus, came to us that the chasm that separated us from God might simply disappear.  Nothing stands in the way from turning to God, when God has turned to us, in Christ Jesus.

When St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he claimed to be an ambassador for Christ.  He entreated the Corinthians to be reconciled to God.  Indeed, they had already received God’s grace in Christ, they had already been reconciled, but frail creatures that they were they had a proclivity to turn away from God.  And so too do we.  Paul entreated them once again to turn to Christ.  That call to turn again is as necessary for us to hear today as it was for the ancient Corinthians on that long-ago day.  Let us not risk receiving the grace of God in vain, but rather remember that God has listened to our prayers in the past and he has helped us.  He has brought us salvation in Christ.

If that truth seems distant; if those promises seem old and stale; if the fire in our hearts has waned to a mere flicker, then now is the time to turn again.  Now is the time in which the flames will once again be fanned.  Now is the day of salvation.  If we have turned away, it is time to turn back again to Christ. He will not leave us or forsake us.  He will receive us again and again.

As St. Paul wrote, we are putting no obstacle in in anyone’s way.  And neither is God.  God does not require sacrifice or burnt offerings; he does not require Lenten disciplines or fasting.  God loves a broken and contrite heart.  This is the thing he will not despise.  The very thing we are afraid of – brokenness – this is what God embraces.  The thing that would appear to be the obstacle for us, is means through which God reaches out.  Where God sees a chasm he builds a bridge.  That bridge is Christ. Where God finds a gaping wound he applies a salve.  That salve is Christ.  Where God sees the fire waning to a flicker he fans the flames.  That breath is Christ.  It is precisely in our weakness, not in our strength, that Jesus comes to us.  Indeed, our feigned strength may just be an obstacle for us before God.

Thus, in vulnerability and longing, with fear and trembling, with the risk of disappointment, we turn again.  And once again we meet Christ.  We turn to Christ, not to disciplines.  If we take up such disciplines during Lent it will not be because they will bring us closer to God, there is only one thing that brings us closer to God, and that is Jesus. If we take up Lenten disciplines once again it will be out of our deep devotion to the one who is there for us without obstacle, without condition, with pure grace.  If take up Lenten disciplines again, it will be because we wish to clear away the rubbish of our lives to make a place for the one who has so graciously reached out to us and made a place for us in his heart. 

No matter where we find ourselves as this Lenten journey begins, I entreat you, as St. Paul entreated the Corinthians, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  Turn again.  You shall find him, without obstacle, and with perfect grace, welcoming you into his heart.

No comments: