Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

YEAR C 2022 ash wednesday

Ash Wednesday, 2022
Joel 2:1-2,12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Psalm 103:8-14

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Knowing I will die, how then shall I live?  That’s the question for us tonight.  Knowing I will die, how then shall I live?

Most of you have probably seen the Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.”  If you haven’t seen it, you probably know the basic plot.  A guy wakes up every day and it’s the same day.  He is stuck in an endless loop of days that begin with Sonny and Cher on the radio.  Eek!  No matter how hard he tries to die, he wakes up, and it’s the same thing again.  Every day.  It doesn’t take long for the awareness of his immortality to become pure cynicism.  Nothing matters, because he will live forever; no one matters, because tomorrow will be the same.  Knowing he will not die, how does he live?   Carelessly.  Recklessly.  Why do anything?  Why try to make a difference?  We could call this, the Tedium of Immortality. 

And the opposite of that is why we are gathered here tonight: to be told in scripture and ritual acts that we will not live forever.  To acknowledge together that we are mortal.  From dust we were created, and to dust we shall return.  Unlike Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day,” there will come a day when we will not wake up to Sonny and Cher on the radio, and we have come together to be reminded of that.  And so then, knowing I will die, how then shall I live?

Our mortality is motivation, is one way to look at life.  There are all sorts of slogans and Successories posters that tell us that.  You only live once, so go skydiving.  You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so seize the day.  Acknowledging the fact that life doesn’t last forever is the existential crisis unique to human beings.  All people are aware, however vaguely, that they will one day die. 

Okay.  So, why do we Christians pick out a particular Wednesday every single year specifically to remind ourselves that we are going to die some day?  Why go out of our way to tell ourselves something we already know? 

Well . . . the date for Ash Wednesday is determined by the date of Easter.  This Wednesday to remember that we are dust is directly connected to the announcement that Jesus is risen.  The 40 days of Lent lead us to the 50 days of Easter.  Ash Wednesday and Easter are two sides of the same coin.  We focus on our mortality in the light of our immortality.  We gather to remind ourselves that—though we will die—we will live again, resurrected by the One who created us.  So there’s a second question for us to ponder:  Knowing I will live, how shall I die?  Knowing I will live, how shall I die?  Well . . .

Listen to one of the opening anthems that we read at funerals:
“For none of us has life in himself, and none becomes his own master when he dies.  For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord, and if we die, we die in the Lord.  So, then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's possession.”

Knowing I will die, how shall I live?  Knowing I will live, how shall I die?

These are the two questions put to us this night.  And the answer to both of them is this:  Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's possession.  As the opening Collect for this day reminds us, God hates nothing God has made.  And that which Jesus has claimed as his own, he will never turn away.  You are a beloved child of God, and you are claimed by Jesus.


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