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  • Writer's picturePastor Paul Harris

Ash Wednesday 2024

ASH WEDNESDAY

"Store Up..."


Most of the seasons of Lent in which I have celebrated, there has been an emphasis on preparing physically and spiritually in the 40-day season and a coming Easter Sunday. And on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, we recognize our mortality as part of God’s creation. We give thanks for being a child of God. We repent and turn back toward God in our life practices. We look forward to God’s new creation and the resurrection to new life promised in Christ.


This year we read from a traditional scripture text, Matthew 6. But instead of focusing completely on the methods Jesus teaches concerning prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need, we also hear another word:


"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal."


We wonder what then we should be up to as disciples of Jesus. Admittedly, we are tempted to fill our lives with treasure that does not last or provide real connection to the Lord. So, what are we supposed to be up to in this season of Lent as we contemplate our connection with Jesus?


Our Lenten series from Marcia McFee and the team of Worship Design Studio suggests that we consider the poem from Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day." And seek the answers to a question posed when she writes:


"I do not know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?"


Maybe in this season of Lent, we might be focused on storing up the things that bring us closer to the reign of God, the good things - the treasures - that fill us and others with well-being of body, mind, and spirit. Matthew's gospel goes on to say,

"For where your treasure is there also will be your heart."


In reading and examining the poem from Mary Oliver, perhaps we could focus our hearts in the small things that we can do to stay centered on who we are, where God has placed us, and what abundance God is putting in front of us each day.


Staying centered in Christ is something we can understand through what John Wesley called the Means of Grace. He preached a sermon and taught this concept throughout his ministry in 18th century England. It became part of our doctrine in the United Methodist Church.


Briefly, the means of grace can be summarized as physical and spiritual practices whereby believers in Jesus come to know God’s presence and God’s love in a very scriptural way. God is near! That was the message of Jesus. To know God’s nature, we look toward the incarnational love of God in Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit.


Storing up heavenly treasure on earth then involves practicing our faith and experiencing God’s nearness in the grace of Jesus. Our faith and life practices right now help us cooperate in God’s grace and give us a better sense of God’s heart. As we are seeking the righteousness of God in an inward spiritual journey, we are invited to live out our Christ- centered actions in the world right now.


So, we invite you this season of Lent to focus in response to God’s love and in physical and spiritual activities with an eye toward the small things each of us can be doing to usher in the message of Christ in our world: God is near.


Let us pray:

Gracious God, you are Creator of all that is living and all that is dying. From dust you created humankind, into dust we in these mortal bodies shall return. Help us with our humanness. Guide us in these days of Lent. Help us live now in the certain hope of the resurrection of your Son, our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. Amen.


Blessings for a Holy Lent,

Pastor Paul


Link to the poem


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