Seminary

A number of months ago, I was approached by folks at the Faculty of Theology at Huron about being interviewed for a promotional video for the Master of Divinity program. Logistics of me being in Victoria and the videographer being in London made it a challenge at first, but we managed to find a time when I was in Toronto for PWRDF meetings to sit down and talk about my experiences of that program. I said lots of things, most of which was, I’m sure, incoherent. But James, the amazing videographer, somehow took them and made me sound intelligent! Many thanks to Todd, the Dean of the Faculty, for trusting me with saying things about that great place. Honoured to be with David Giffen in his beautiful parish for this video.

Sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6 2017)

Preached on the Feast of the Transfiguration at St Luke’s, Ottawa. This was the first service that Matthew and I were able to do together as priests, I preached and he presided. It happened by the invitation of our friend, the Ven. David Selzer, who is currently priest-in-charge at St Luke’s.

Readings: 2 Peter 1:16–19 and Luke 9:28–36

(This one definitely makes more sense if you read the readings first…)

 

Now about eight days after these sayings…

Eight days after Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was…

After Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah of God…

After Jesus told them that he would suffer, be rejected, killed, and then be raised…

After explaining that anyone who tries to save their life will lose it and only those who lose their lives for the sake of the gospel will save them…

 

About eight days after all of these sayings, Jesus takes Peter and John and James and goes up the mountain to pray.

It is remarkable how much happens with prayer.

Three of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, share this account of Jesus being transfigured on a mountain top in the presence of Moses and Elijah, Peter and John and James.

But only this one, the account written by Luke, says that Jesus went up the mountain expressly to pray.

Prayer figures prominently in the account of the life of Jesus written by Luke. It undergirds other pivotal events in the life of Jesus such as Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ selection of the twelve disciples, in the garden before Jesus is arrested, on the cross …

For Luke, prayer is the launch point for a dramatic encounter of God’s presence.

Because, while Jesus is praying, the appearance of his face is changed and his clothes become a brilliant white.

Here, again, Luke differs from Matthew and Mark… because while Matthew and Mark say that Jesus was “transfigured” or “metamorphosed” – Luke simply says that Jesus’ face was changed.

Unlike Moses, who appears with Jesus on this mountain but who, when he met God face-to-face on another mountain, reflected God’s glory in the shining of his face, here Jesus is not reflecting God’s glory because Jesus is God. Jesus is radiating God’s glory.

Jesus is God’s glory.

And while Luke says that Jesus’ face was changed, maybe it is more accurate to say the disciple’s viewing of Jesus’ face is changed. Finally, the disciples are getting a glimpse of who Jesus really is.

This is no reflected glory. This is God’s glory manifested in Jesus, shining through like a light in a dark room.

 

God is revealed in Jesus on this mountaintop. And witnessing it are Moses and Elijah – two giants of Hebrew history and mythology who have had their own encounters with God on the tops of mountains before – and Peter, John, and James – three friends of Jesus, the three who are a part of the inner circle who follow Jesus everywhere, and who have been and will be witness to God incarnate at work.

I wonder if seeing this helps these three disciples to start to realize a little bit more about the significance of those sayings eight days ago, those conversations that they have been having with Jesus about his identity and about the path that they must follow?

 

Perhaps that is part of the significance of this being the eighth day after…

Because the eighth day is the first day of the new week. In the tradition of the Early Church, the eighth day is Sunday. The day of resurrection. The day of new life. The day of new beginnings.

Here, Jesus is resetting the clock. He has just predicted his death for the first time and now he is turning his shining face towards Jerusalem and starting this journey.

Peter wants to pause here. He is on the top of the mountain in the presence of God, the Messiah. And if they stay and rest in the presence of God’s glory, then perhaps they can avoid the part about death and crucifixion.

But as Peter is still talking about resting, the cloud descends and overshadows them, terrifying them into silence.

This is no ordinary cloud and their terror is legitimate.

The only other place in Luke’s gospel where the word “overshadowed” is used is way back at the beginning, when an angel appears and says to Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God and you will conceive a son and name him Jesus, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and of his kingdom there will be no end…”
Mary, understandably, is confused and asks how this might happen.

The angel replies, The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…

This cloud that is overshadowing the disciples is the same Most High that overshadowed Mary at the very beginning when Jesus became incarnate on earth.

The air must have been electric with God’s power in that cloud.

And then the cloud speaks, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

The voice speaks words similar to words that marked another beginning: At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was baptized and the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove and he heard the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

This time, however, the voice is for the disciples: In case there was still any doubt in your mind – this is my Son. Listen to what he says.

When he says he will suffer, he will. When he says he will die, he will. When he says he will be raised, he will.

Do Peter, John, and James leave the mountain knowing exactly what will take place in the weeks and months to come? Do they always get it right from here on in? I think we can agree that the answer is no, not really.

But we can be reminded of the fact that Jesus still revealed his full glory to them on that mountaintop when they saw his face changed and whether or not we can see it at any given time, the glory of God is here, incarnate, dwelling with us and in us – whether we are up the mountain or down.

In the words of the letter of Peter this morning, It is that lamp, shining in a dark place all night long, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts and we see it once more.

Amen.

 

Ordination

On Saturday, July 22nd, Matthew and I were ordained priests. It was a pretty special day with many of our friends and and family, as well as some of our professors from Huron in attendance. It was a lovely service, and I am so grateful to (and proud of!) the folks at St John’s for pulling out all of the stops to host our first ordination in a long time. They did a magnificent job. The Rev. Canon Dr. Martin Brokenleg let us on a retreat for the week prior to the ordination and preached at the service itself. It was an impacting sermon, which can be heard here, on St John’s website.

The feast commemorated on the day of our ordination was St Mary Magdalene. To be ordained on her feast day was an added plus for me. She is called the first woman to preach the gospel because of her witness to the resurrection of Jesus and her testifying his resurrection to the disciples. In a church where the ordination is still relatively new (only 41 years in Canada) and a world where women still face opposition to being in church leadership (or any kind of leadership), to have my priesthood forever connected to Mary Magdalene is a reminder that this isn’t new or unusual. It is ordained by God.

Sermon for May 28, 2017

Preached at St John the Divine, Victoria
Readings: Acts 1:6-14 & John 17:1-11

Audio available here.

 

There is something very human about the opening words in our reading from the Book of Acts today.

Jesus is gathered together again with his friends and disciples. They have come together at the Mount of Olives – that hill overlooking Jerusalem: the place where Jesus shed tears over the city, that place that holds the garden in which Jesus prayed on the night when he was betrayed, that place from which he was arrested.

But all of those things are passed now: the men and women gathered here have seen the crucifixion of Jesus and even in their doubt and confusion about whether or if it could happen, they have all been witnesses to his rising.

They’ve spent the last 40 days with Jesus but I am sure that they still had thousands of questions to ask of him – and here, on the Mount of Olives, at the very beginning of our reading from Acts we hear one of them:

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

It is a question that gives voice to a very human confusion, and maybe even disappointment, that continues to plague them even when looking into the face of the risen Christ. After all that they have been through, they are still seeking to have a political revolution when Jesus has patiently time and time again talked about a different sort of kingdom.

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set…. begins Jesus – probably with a sigh, and probably leaving those gathered feeling a little bit chastened….

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set… BUT … and here it shifts… but YOU will receive power. YOU will be my witnesses!

This is not a dismissal but an expansive empowering. They are the ones who will be bringing about this kingdom!

And then, suddenly, before they have had a chance to process the words and formulate a second question, Jesus is lifted up and disappears.

 

In one of the only recorded instance of his followers actually doing what Jesus says, his followers return to Jerusalem to wait. The way the writer of Acts phrases it, it sounds like they have returned to that same upper room where they are accustomed to waiting: except this time instead of cowering behind locked doors, they have gathered together – disciples, Jesus’ family, many of the women who have been following Jesus – all gathered together to pray.

Acts says they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.

I wonder if they had any inclination as to what was coming 10 days later on the day we now know as Pentecost?

I wonder if knowing would have changed how they prayed?

 

We, like those followers who were constantly devoting themselves to prayer while waiting in Jerusalem between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, are living in-between.

On Thursday we celebrated Ascension Day. Next Sunday will be Pentecost.

This Sunday, we are in-between.

Between Ascension and Pentecost.

Between Jesus leaving and the birth of the church.

Between now and not yet.

Between belief and understanding.

 

In-between is an uncomfortable place to be; it is full of uncertainty and sometimes apprehension.

If we are honest, I suspect we’d agree that the disciple’s decision to hide away in a locked room between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection sometimes seems more appealing than their coming together to pray between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost.

 

But prayer is what Jesus has modelled for them to do.

In John, we don’t get an account of the disciples asking to be taught to pray and then having Jesus give them what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Instead, the gospel of John is full of examples of Jesus praying in public, in front of his disciples and in front of anyone who would listen.

 

Think about today’s gospel from John 17.

This prayer, part of what we call the “Farewell Discourse”, comes immediately after Jesus tells his disciples that he will return to his Father and that the grief they have will eventually turn to joy. Then, while still sitting at the Last Supper table with his friends, he launches into this intimate prayer we that read this morning.

I don’t know what that would have been like, I imagine it feeling like a super awkward eavesdropping session on Jesus. But, maybe the disciples were used to it by now and took it as a glimpse into Jesus’ relationship with God and the importance of relationship in our faith journey.

Still, it is too easy to pass by this prayer thinking it just another conversation with God and not worthy of any theological consideration.

It is too easy to convince ourselves that prayer is much to personal for it to contain anything to shape what we know about God.

Prayer is incredibly intimate, and yes it is a conversation, a dialogue. But it is more than that. Think of the global Anglican church – there is no statement of faith or set of doctrines that unites us. Rather it is our prayers – the words we say and pray together in our liturgy week in and week out. That is why the words of our liturgy matter so much! It is our theology! It reveals a lot about what we think about God and what our expectations might be.

This prayer in the gospel of John is a moment for us to see what we can learn from how Jesus’ prayed for us.

Reading it that way, we might find some things that surprise us.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

It isn’t often that we get a straightforward definition of eternal life, especially one that doesn’t involve clouds or heaven or things like that. But here we have one: and THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who you have sent… (v3)

 

Is eternal life really that simple: to know God and know Jesus?

I wonder how that could change what we imagine in this life?

I wonder how it would affect our picture of God?

I wonder how that changes living in-between?

 

Suddenly living in-between isn’t very between, it simply is!

It is relationship with God: John’s gospel assumes that people were created by God for relationship with God, and all of our lives – the now and the not yet, the waiting and the uncertainty, the belief and understanding – flows out of that.

And we see that in the way that the gospel writer describes Jesus’ earthly ministry:

  • The Word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us, as a human subject to human relationships and hurts but also as one bringing the glory of God into humanity
  • His care for human relationship that has Jesus turn water into wine at the wedding feast of his friends
  • That intimacy of conversation between Jesus and an isolated Samaritan woman at a well who describes Jesus as one who truly knows her, down to the details of her personal life with her succession of husbands, and then who discovers what it means to have living water through Jesus
  • Jesus bringing wholeness and restoration of relationship with others in their community to those who are separated by blindness or lameness
  • Vulnerably weeping at the death of his good friend Lazarus
  • Calling himself the shepherd that knows each one of his sheep so well that he can call us all by name.

 

It is no wonder that the disciples returned to prayer. Jesus had just been taken away from them and this was the way they had learned from him to continue to be in relationship while apart.

It is the way that we come together as a communion of people around the world and declare our belief and trust in God.

It is the way we are in relationship with each other and with God.

It is the way we are in eternal life, here and now, in the in-between and in the here.

All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Amen.

Sermon for April 30, 2017

Preached at St John the Divine, Victoria

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35 (The Road to Emmaus)

Audio file is available here.

 

“But we had hoped…”

There are some walks that are longer than others.

The length isn’t necessarily because of the distance, or even the landscape. Sometimes it is a long walk because of what is being carried…

It had been a long day already. A long weekend, really. Huddled with friends in an upstairs room – all together since sometime on Thursday or Friday. Our hopes have been growing cold along with the body that we laid in the tomb just before the sun set and the Sabbath began.

The Sabbath came and went and finally it was Sunday and we had a little more freedom to move around. Some of the women were up at the crack of dawn to head over to the part of the garden where the graves are. The rest of us stayed put in the room, still sitting in that stunned silence that often accompanies grave disappointment. And then the women returned with the news that his body was no longer there and a story of a vision of angels who said he was alive.

But … still, no one saw him and we’ve been beginning to suspect that the whole thing has been a mistake.

So, with the disappointment still clinging like an anvil to their shoulders, two of them left to head to Emmaus, a village about seven miles away.

Not a terribly long walk – it is only slightly further than the Times Colonist 10K that hundreds of people are walking or running this morning in Victoria… yet from the sounds of it, it was a really long walk.

Carrying a heavy burden will make even the shortest distance seem like an eternity.

 

As they were walking, a solitary walker came near and joined their party and their conversation, and he walked the seven miles with them, sharing in their conversation and discussion.

The gospel writer uses three words to describe the conversation – the first is the word from which we derive our word “homily” (but don’t worry, I don’t intend to have a seven mile walk length sermon this morning!), the second describes a rhetoric-full exchange of words, and the third, an emotional dialogue.

As drenched in disappointment as the two walkers, Cleopas and his friend, were, I imagine that it really was an incredibly emotion-full conversation for them: their despair is encapsulated in the phrase, “But we had hoped that he was the one…”

But we had hoped.

 

But we had hoped … to bring our baby home from the ICU.

But we had hoped … that the cancer was gone.

But we had hoped … that our relationship would work out.

But we had hoped … that this would have been a good job.

But we had hoped … that they had truly beaten their addiction this time.

But we had hoped…

All of the theology of Easter joy and hope and a dawning future cannot stop us from getting caught in that moment of deep disappointment – where the only thing that actually expresses how we feel is a painfully imperfect verb tense. But we had hoped…

 

This is one of the things that I love about the gospels, though: they know and express the things that we sometimes dare not say. Crucial hopes have collapsed and we are feeling overwhelmed with disappointment because of it.

It isn’t easy.

It hurts.

It blinds.

 

I do take some comfort in realizing that even Jesus’ earliest followers didn’t recognize him after his crucifixion and resurrection – some comfort in realizing that belief in Jesus as the risen Lord wasn’t self-evident even to them.

Because Jesus walked with the two followers for nearly seven miles – walked and unpacked the scriptures with them, starting with recent events and unfolding history all the way back to Moses and the prophets – and they still didn’t recognize him.

Jesus entered into their despair and disappointment and walked alongside them, talking with them and being present with them, and they still didn’t know him.

And I don’t blame them for that – in the depths of depression, in deep disappointment, when all of our hopes are dashed, I think it is pretty normal not to recognize Jesus or know how he might – how he could possibly – be with us.

And in those moments, the grace of this story is that that our inability to see or recognize Jesus is okay. Jesus is still there, walking alongside us.

 

As the window in our chapel reminds us, it is in the simple things that Jesus might become known – it isn’t when he first appears on the road, it isn’t when he is walking alongside them, it isn’t even when he is expounding the scriptures and reasoning with them.

It is when he sits down at the table with his friends, takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them.

And they knew Jesus.

Jesus enters our lives, not in the miraculous, but in the ordinary things: the taking, blessing, breaking, and giving.

In the hug of a friend we haven’t seen in some time.

In the joy of a new flower poking out of the garden.

In blessing a meal together.

We recognize God and know her presence with us.

 

But we had hoped…

What does Jesus do with dashed expectations? He enters into them and, in the breaking of the bread he reminds us that he who was himself broken lives in them too.

The body of Christ, broken for us…

 

Sermon for March 27, 2017

Preached at St Mary the Virgin, Oak Bay
Gospel: John 9. All of it.

 

I’d like to invite you to go for a walk with me …

I’m not going to ask you to get up and follow me down to Oak Bay Avenue or anything, but lets go for a walk together in our imaginations…

It is a wonderful day to be outside. Spring is in the air!

Today is a day of rest so no one is working – in fact working today is actively discouraged – and this means that the streets are full, but not overcrowded, with people outside and there is that quiet hubbub of voices filling, but not overpowering, the air around us.

You’re walking with a group of friends and one of them is the group leader. He is wise and you’ve enjoyed getting to know him these last three years. He has done some pretty incredible things over the time you’ve been walking the around countryside with him, and it always seems like there is more to learn.

As you walk along, you see a familiar-looking man up ahead. You’ve seen him around town a lot. He is memorable because he is blind, and you’ve heard that he was born that way.

Because he is blind, the man is not invited to participate in anything in society – and we see this in how the people walking down the street part so as to avoid him, being careful not to touch him lest they become contaminated by him. As if blindness is catching.

 

Thinking this might be another opportunity to learn something from the wise group leader, you and your friends pause, point to the blind man, and ask,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

It is obvious – someone must have sinned, or else why would the man be blind? Blindness or any other kind of illness or unpleasantness is the result of sin, right?

As far as society is concerned, it is. This man needed to be kept on the margins because he must have sinned. His blindness would be secondary – the fact that he was blind was evidence of sin and therefore of a ruptured relationship between him and God which CANNOT BE HEALED

Our group leader looks at the man who is blind, and then looks back at his group of followers, saying,

Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Or, in other words:

         Don’t look for a cause and effect between sin and sickness. There isn’t one. Look instead for what God can do here…

 

Look instead for what God can do.

And as if in demonstration of that statement, our group leader and teacher, our Rabbi, Jesus, turns and stops the man. Then he bends down and spits into the dust on the ground, stirs it around, and makes a muddy paste. He takes the paste and puts it on the man’s unseeing eyes and says,

Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

The pool of Siloam is over in the area of the temple and so the man leaves to makes his way over there.

I wonder if he had ever been near the pool before?

Some scholars think that the pool of Siloam might have been a mikveh, a pool used for ritual cleaning before going into the temple for prayer so that one might be washed clean before entering the presence of God. It would qualify for being such a pool because it was constantly refilled with naturally flowing spring water that was always moving, always circulating. It was living water.

Living water that cleanses us before God.

But as a blind man, a man considered to be unclean and perpetually in a state of fractured relationship because of his blindness, would he have been allowed to come near the pool?

It must have taken a lot of courage to believe in a man he could not see who told him to go and wash in a place he might get in trouble for being at.

Perhaps he had a well-developed sense of hearing to compensate for his blindness, perhaps he heard something in Jesus’ voice that others did not always hear.

All we know is that he went

And washed

And could see

And in doing so he demonstrates that the relationship between him and God, between him and his neighbours, is not broken but is dramatically and visually reconciled and that he should be included in society.

Can you imagine?! Imagine the ruckus that this must have caused! Everyone all around stopping to say – Hey! I know that man! But… isn’t he blind?!?

 

Naturally, all of the commotion draws the attention of some of the religious authorities.

I mean, a blind man who can now see is noteworthy – is extraordinary. They need to find out who did it. And they need to find out NOW, because whoever it was did an unlawful action on the Sabbath and THAT is the ultimate no-no. No joy for the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see, no remarks at his wholeness. Just anger about it happening on the Sabbath.

So they call the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see and question him.

And they immediately start from the premise that whoever healed him is a sinner. Because obviously only sinners do things like this on the Sabbath. In a train of thought directly opposite to what Jesus has earlier said to his disciples, these religious leaders have found a cause and presumed the effect and never stopped to think about what God could do.

Not only that but they don’t believe that the man had been blind in the first place. SO they send for his parents.

His parents, understandably, are reluctant to get involved. But they do confirm that yes, he is their son and yes, he was born blind.

 

So the authorities haul back the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see and what he sees is a group of authorities trying to back him into a corner, trying to keep him out of society…

He has found himself in a place that is uncomfortable: he is right with God but is at odds with the powerful, with the status quo, and he has the courage to say again and again that which he knows to be true.

         I was blind and now I can see. He opened my eyes. He reconciled me to my community. You say he is a sinner, but how could he do this if he was! No, this man is from God and he has brought the grace of God into my life. I believed his words and washed in living water and I am whole.

The authorities, not liking his statement, throw him out.

 

But our excitement-filled walk is not yet over.

Filled with compassion for the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see, Jesus seeks him out to talk with him.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

          Who is that? I want to know who he is so that I can believe!

You have heard him and you have now seen him. He is the one speaking to you.

          Lord. I believe!

 

Lord, I believe.

Believe is perhaps not quite the right word to be translated here. It needs to encompass a little more strength and a little more relationship.

The man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see doesn’t just believe in Jesus. He trusts him. He commits to Jesus. He joins his life to Jesus.

 

If that phrase “I believe” sounds a little familiar, consider the Creeds we say:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty … and in one Lord Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Ghost …

We believe in God: we trust in God. We commit to God. In saying these words we join our lives to the one whom the words are about.

And, in the manner of our gospel reading, we are making a statement about having sight and our commitment to seeing.

 

Our gospel this morning closes with a conversation between Jesus and the religious authorities that encapsulates the irony that is underlying this entire story:

The man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see started off with unseeing eyes but with a sight that sees who Jesus really is and understands faith.

The religious leaders are proud of their seeing eyes but fail to see and understand who Jesus is and what he is doing.

The one who is blind has sight. Those who can see are blind.

 

Surely we are not blind, are we?

Look for what God can do…

Amen.

 

A Sermon for Ash Wednesday

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria

Texts: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:10; Matthew 6:1-2,16-21

 

Sometimes I wonder if Lent is the Christian equivalent of New Year’s resolutions…

I mean, think about it for a minute – we talk about giving up things like chocolate or coffee or bread as a way of having a Lenten fast but is it sometimes really just an excuse to stick to that weight loss plan … ?

Or the Lenten Spring Cleaning that is more about making the house look good for visitors than about decluttering our spiritual lives to clear a path to better relationship with God.

Motives matter.

 

Our readings today clearly outline this with some pretty graphic imagery. Joel reminds the people of Israel to rend their hearts and not their clothing, suggesting that it is the internal state that matters more than the outfit we do it in or the way we show it off to the world.

Matthew’s gospel echoes this, encouraging the left hand to keep its actions secret from the right hand – not because there is something to hide or be ashamed of, but because if we are concentrated on everyone around us seeing how great we are for the things we are doing, we miss the true point of doing them for our own spiritual practice and for God.

 

Paul, in 2 Corinthians, reminds us of the importance of the state of our spiritual selves and our relationship to God:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation … so we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God

You might be thinking, I don’t know that I was ever not reconciled to God? And in part, says Paul, that is true: God through Jesus did all of the hard work of reconciling God to humanity in all of our mess. But Paul still urges us to be reconciled to God so that we might become God’s righteousness.

 

Which, you might also be thinking, is a monumentous task! Where do we even begin??

 

Well, that is the good news. Today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of these great 40 days of Lent, is where we can decide the starting point this journey.

Will it be a starting point of coasting through Lent and doing the same old same old?

Will it be a starting point of putting on piety so that others can obviously see how well we are participating? – A starting point of doing the cleaning for appearances sake only?

Or will it be a starting point of gathering to acknowledge our humanity and committing to reconciliation: with God, with those around us who we love and those we have hurt, and with ourselves?

 

The reading from Joel reminds us of the importance of journeying together. God called for the trumpet to be sounded and everyone – the aged, the children and infants, the newly married – everyone to gather together to be set apart for the work of God.

We are in this Lenten journey together. We may have slightly different paths at times, with different kinds of reconciliations needed, but we are in it together.

The cross of ash on our foreheads reminds us of who we are, of where we have come from, and of where we are going:

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return

But also remember the cross on your forehead at baptism where you were signed with the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever.

And remember the cross that these 40 days of Lent is leading us towards …

 

Yes, we know where we have come from and in one sense we know where we are going this Lenten journey: we know about Good Friday – and we know what happened and what will happen on Easter morning!

In another sense, though, we don’t know where we are going because we don’t know exactly what path this Lenten journey will take. We don’t know where God will ask us to shine a light in our lives. We don’t know what will change, what may shift, and what might emerge – or not – on the other side of Lent.

All we really know is where we are standing and whom we are journeying with. Where we are right now, today, on Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded of our humanity and the solemnity of the Lenten journey we are about to embark on.

And in receiving the cross of ash we commit to travelling the Lenten journey of reconciliation in whatever shape God makes it for us, knowing that we are all walking together with God these 40 days.