Friday, February 15, 2013

Ash Wednesday Community Building

For the first time in anyone's memory, we held a community Ash Wednesday service. This was a cooperative effort of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churchs. The response was overwhelming. This will now be an annual event.

We three pastors each preached a short homily following each of the scripture texts that were read. I preached on the Isaiah text. Here is the message I shared:

At first glance, it’s easy to see why this portion of Isaiah is read on Ash Wed.
     It’s about fasting, which is a discipline some folks practice during Lent
     This reading is about right and wrong fasting and worship
          But the heart of the message goes far deeper
“God was disturbed by Israel’s lack of social justice. Their fasting had become [a public show. It was] a means to boast of their righteousness rather than live out a faith where one cares for one’s neighbor” (Dr. Keith Wagner)
The people of Israel were trying to build a new community
This generation was back in their homeland after living in exile in Babylon
People were jockeying for position as factions were grabbing for power
All the while the people prayed loudly and fasted with false humility
They had some real worship issues
            At first glance it seems like they understood worship
                        God said, “they seek me and delight to know my ways”
                                    “they delight to draw near to [me]”
                        But God also said that the people of Israel sinned
                                    By serving their own interests
                                         And ignoring the hungry, naked and homeless                                            members of their own people.
            There was a disconnect between the people’s worship and their everyday lives.
                   God wanted his people to live lives of mercy and justice.
God wants worship that flows from a dynamic relationship between himself and his people--that will change lives.
We too, here in Portville, are building a community as we gather here tonight
We are building the community of the body of Christ, the church.
As our lives are affected by our encounters with God and each other our communities of Portville and the surrounding areas are changed.
Christ is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves
During this time of Lent, we embark on a journey that leads to the cross on Good Friday.

The death of Christ on the cross was the greatest act of love that our Creator could do on  our behalf.
            Our response to that love should be to reach out to others with:
            food, clothing, shelter and love.
            We are called to be Christ’s hands and feet to those we meet.

In the song, “If We are the Body,” The Christian group, Casting Crowns expresses it this way:
But if we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them
There is a way?

What else will this group of Portville mainline pastors (all women) get into? You never know. Stay tuned. We are the newly reformed Portville Ministerium. 

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