Rev. Shayna Watson

In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…

Sisters and Brothers in Christ, Ash Wednesday invites us into a time of reflection, repentance, and fasting as we enter the season of Lent.

Intro to Ash Wednesday

The Season of Lent consists of 40 days and 40 nights, symbolic of Jesus’ journey into the wilderness 40 days and 40 nights, where he experienced: temptation, solitude, and fasting. It is also intended to be a season of preparation or process to Easter.

Lent is a season of self-emptying, a spiritual kenosis if you will, in order to be open to the voice and movement of God. There are various ways that one can go about deepening their spiritual walk.  Some people observe the fasting tradition:

●     Technological Fast- where’s one disconnects or suspends their use of video games and or social media

●     Dietary Fasts- abstaining from eating sugar and carbs or all liquid

●     Time Designated Fasting- where meals are only eaten at certain times of the day using sunrise and sunset as the designated time perimeter

Some of the most common fasts for 2020 include:

·         Meat

·         Smoking

·         Alcohol

·         Coffee

·         Sugar, especially chocolate

…so let’s pause right there for a moment.

·         Ash Wednesday and the Lenten observance derived from the Council of Nicea around ca 325AD. Chocolate was not officially created until a century later. SO, I want to make sure that you are aware that the creators of this observance did not have chocolate in their lives….

·         Furthermore they did not have cell phones with game apps like minecraft, roblox, candy crush

·         social media like facebook, snapchat, it was created before Starbucks.

·         What do we do now? What do we give up or fast from during this season of Lent?

Some of the non-chocolate food items are:

1.   negativity,

2.   spending money,

3.   single-use plastics,

4.   and high expectations

*Just to be clear, we all have to live with these people and ourselves for the next 40 days while we go through this withdrawal.

Life is already difficult right. Let alone having to give up these small pleasures. What more could God want from us?

The texts we heard read tonight all point to ways in which we could fast, what fasting looks, and what fasting is and is not about:

While people discuss what they’re going to “give-up,” the fast is not meant to literally destroy us, but based on emptying is meant to give us life, light, and liberation.  Fasting is not meant to make us look drawn, or to suffer traumatically, but rather, stripping away material extras, is intended to give us life, to liberate us, to help us see what’s most important. The passage in Isaiah outlines for us the “fast” that G-d would choose for us:

Is not this the fast that I choose:

    to loose the bonds of injustice,

    to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

    and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

    and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator[a] shall go before you,

    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

    you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,

    the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

    and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually,

    and satisfy your needs in parched places,

    and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

    like a spring of water,

    whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

    the restorer of streets to live in.

Often Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent can be misconstrued for a season of self-loathing, but these passage point to the idea of new life, of a deep satisfaction to those who hunger, to those who thirst, and to those who need brightness and cheer in their lives.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, God’s not seeking a “fasting fashion,” where people brag or boast about what their doing in order to deepen their faith with G-d. G-d seeks your brokeness, your heart and your mind. We spend most of our lives beautifying our messiness, but God wants you all of you, the mess and all.

I say “eat the cake, fast from hate.” For many giving up food and social media are necessary practices and I condone. And these are also “things.” We can shut it off, suspend our accounts, or put something on the shelf or avoid certain restaurants. But what if we fast from the things we can put away as easily. What would  Lenten season look like, if we fasted from gossip?

Would our Lenten season look like if we fasted from prejudice?

What would our Lenten season if we fasted from jealousy and envy?

What would our Lenten season if we fasted from feeling the need to be in control

●     If you really want 40 days and 40 nights of a true wilderness experience, fast from coffee. Jesus, Mary and JoeJoe, that would create a wilderness experience for everyone within a certain radius of you!

There are various ways to fast or empty oneself of worldly attachments in order to deepen our faith in God and our understanding of humanity.

Fasts help us to lose some of the baggage we’ve accumulated over the years-whether its spiritual weight or physical weight, the season of Lent helps us to reflect on the interconnectedness of the two while, allowing our relationship with God to deepen. Lent is not fasting or “giving up” something only.  The secular-detoxification works in tandem with contemplation, meditation, confession, repentance and humility.

And so too, this Ash Wednesday, this first day of the Lenten season, marks the beginning for us to reflect on our deeds, examine our hearts, atone for our sins, repent of the ill we perpetuate or are complacent in or feel apathy toward.

Repent and Remember

Whatever path one decides to encounter, this is a time of repenting and remembering.

●     We repent of greed. We are to remember those who are impoverished and for whom “giving up something” is viewed as a privilege.

●     We repent of self-consumption. We are to remember those who are still in the wilderness from 2018 and the 40 days and 40 nights have since turned into years

●     We repent of violence. We are to remember those who experience soul-injuries as a result of war

●     We repent of racism. We are to remember those who experience discrimination based on the color of their skin

●     We repent of heterosexism. We are to remember those who experience discrimination based on their sexual identity

●     We repent of detachment. We are to remember those who weep in the night and whose joy has not come yet in the morning

●     We repent of segregation and fear of the other. We are to remember that while we yet have breath in our body that God calls to us to unify as a people, not despite our differences, but because we are different

●     We are to repent of misuse of time, because it is short and so very precious.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, fasting is not a fashion statement, it is not something we boast about or are to Fasting is not about the outward, it’s not a fashion or something we are to

Returning to dust is expressed in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. We mostly hear this litany during this season and funerals-not because it’s depressing or penitential, but rather, because it:

●     Reminds us of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

●     Reminds us of our beginning and our end

●     Reminds us of our sameness, because we all came from dirt and will return to dirt- dust sounds much better than dirt, but we’ll go with it for now.

●     Reminds us that dust is our end, but the dust is also our beginning-a rebirth, similar to the symbol of the Phoenix- a mystical bird who was depicted in beautiful imagery-rising from its ashes

●     Reminds us of our mortality and how close we are to it

We are able to use this season to look back over our lives and to see how far we’ve come.

We are to use this season to be present with God

We are to use this to look ahead to see what God is calling us into