Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for March 8, 2000



The following are the Scripture readings as scheduled in the "Revised Common Lectionary," an ecumenical schedule of readings of Holy Scripture. Our sermons are based on these readings.



Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Ash Wednesday, (Year B)



2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near-
2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
2:12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?
2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"


This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Psalm 51:1-17
1:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
1:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
1:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
1:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
1:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
1:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
1:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
1:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
1:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
1:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
1:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
1:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
1:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
1:14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
1:15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
1:16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
1:17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


Ash Wednesday (Year B)

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.
6:2 For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,
6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;
6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;
6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Ash Wednesday (Year B)



6:1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
6:2 "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:5 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Reader: This is the Gospel of the Lord; Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.




Brother Benedict, Sermon 210

Ash Wednesday, March 8, 2000



One thing we have to remember at Ray Of Hope Church is no matter what we are experiencing in worship or in the life of the Church there are many and varied levels of perception of that experience. At once some people are having their first experience, others are doing something they have done for years and are very comfortable with it, still others are wondering through the whole time if this is just another bad repeat of hurtful situations they have been in with the Church at some other time, and many are having their very first experience and may not even be able to grasp even the basic levels of benefits they could receive. I think having all these various levels of faith experience is one of the greatest gifts we have at Ray Of Hope Church. One reason is this has called us to attempt to maintain a balanced message that can feed the mature Christian, not overwhelm the beginner, feed the beginner and hope they hunger for more, and to bring a wholesome worship experience and message to the wounded.

So as we begin the season of Lent it seems appropriate to share some background on how the Church developed this season of evangelization.

In the book we are studying in our Bible Studies, James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship revised, we find this introductory material on page 61:

"The origins of Lent are controversial. It was customary to think of Lent as originating as the final intensive period of preparation for those catechumens (converts under training) who had been set apart, after considerable preparation, to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. New evidence shows a possibly earlier strand, a post-Epiphany fast of forty days in Egypt, associated with Christís forty days in the wilderness, which immediately follows the account of his baptism in the Synoptic Gospels. At any rate, the Council of Nicea, AD 325, first referred to Lent as "forty days" and made it immediately precede Easter. About AD 350, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem told those about to be baptized, ĎYou have a long period of grace, forty days for repentance.í By Augustineís time, Lent had become a time of preparation for all Christians, baptized or not, in that Ďpart of the year.... adjoining... and touching on the Lordís passion.í It begins on a day much later known as Ash Wednesday, from the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of all Christians, a practice dating at least from the eleventh century. The Sundays in Lent are not counted as part of the forty days." (Page 61, Introduction to Christian Worship, revised)



In another source entitled The Christian Calendar by L.W. Cowie and J. Stookey we read:

"The Church of Jerusalem was perhaps the first to observe an actual fast of a total of forty days as early as the fourth century." (Source: page 52, The Christian Calendar by L.W. Cowie and J. Stookey:. Selwyn Gummer. 1974, G&C Merriam Company, Springfield, Mass.)



Church history reveals Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) established Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent in the Western Church. That is a little different that what James White said, but the record stands that this was the work of Gregory the Great.

Is there a Scripture verse that is the basis for Ash Wednesday? Yes it is Genesis 3:19 "Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return." When the Church calls us to remember something that has an impact on our salvation the very act of remembering becomes an expression of evangelization. To remember our mortality is good news because by remembering we are again reminded that Christ became dust of the Earth too when He became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). He also showed us that our permanent destiny is not to be dust in a box forever, but that through His pleading and sacrifice God will raise us out of dust and ashes to a resurrection body that shall live forever in Godís eternal realm.

We are going to use the ashes which are very much the same consistency of dust that results from decay. Why put dust and ash on our foreheads? Isnít that rather humiliating? Well, it is a little shocking, after all it isnít very stylish or becoming. So what is the point?

God says: "Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)

When we place the ashes on each otherís heads we make the sign of the cross. The cross is the sign of the Son of Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The ashes are a sign of death and decay. By combining these two signs we make a new sign. In his book "The Great Church Year", theologian Karl Rahner says this cross made of ashes is appropriate in "...that what we are in reality may be made perceptible in sign: persons of death and persons of redemption." (Karl Rahner, "The Great Church Year" , 1995 - Crossroad, page 121)

We are never free of our reality that we are mortal human beings even though we are saved. Being saved in Christ Jesus does not normally free one from human death. I say normally because we know that some, such as Elijah and Enoch have gone to Heaven without experiencing physical death and many others will not experience physical death when Jesus returns to rapture the Church from the Earth. For the rest of us, we shall experience human death. We are dust, "adam" in Hebrew, that is earth, and to dust we shall return.

There are other Scriptural references that use dust to describe the essence of humanity before it is redeemed by Jesus. Psalm 103:14 "For God knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Ecclesiastes 3:20 "All are from the dust and all turn to dust again." Abraham says, "I am merely dust and ashes..." in Genesis 18:27. Does this sound pessimistic? Actually, it helps us focus on the real power of redemption, the power of resurrection. You see, Christ has overcome the very power of death that turns every mortal back to the dust of the earth.

When we ride past cemeteries we can get the impression that things look quite permanent and situated for all eternity. I have heard people wonder out loud if the earth will someday be one huge cemetery because after all every human needs their own grave. That would be a necessary question if keeping our bodies in graves was Godís plan, but Godís plan is that every body that has lived with the sole exception of Lucifer, shall be resurrected.

We all know what normally happens to the bodies that are in the those graves. The cemetery decorations usually tend to say very little about resurrection. Generally grave decorations look like a permanent monuments to lives that are over and have no future. We know from listening to Jesus the reality is the cemetery will be empty because it is the very ground out of which the power of God in Christ shall overcome the sting of death and cause those bodies to live forever. God will show the universe that God has all authority even over all the effects of death.

The Holy Word of God is perfectly clear that all shall rise from the dead. In Matthew Jesus referred to the resurrection:

"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ĎI am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:30-32)

 

Jesus also gave this definitive teaching: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:25-29)



If it were left to chance or some other power beyond our personal control, God would be cruel, unjust, wicked and unfair! God is just! God has given each of us the ability to determine which resurrection we shall participate in, the resurrection of life, or the resurrection of condemnation. If we choose God through Jesus Christ, we shall live forever with God, Godís people, and in Godís kingdom. If we choose rejection of God and align ourselves with Satan and all the cohorts of rebellion, we shall receive the just punishment of the One who owns this Universe, and He has made it perfectly clear what that destiny is, the Lake of Fire which shall burn its inhabitants for ever.

Obviously, God wants us to choose life, choose salvation, choose eternity, choose to be part of Godís next chapter of plans for the Universe! God wants us to be with the Blessed Trinity for ever.

We know that God being holy cannot receive sin, so are we hopelessly doomed? No! Jesus has made the way open to all who will confess sins, and change behavior seeking to come ever closer to God.

Lent provides the perfect opportunity for a spring cleaning of our memory, our hard drive, our disks, by this I mean our souls, minds, motives, intentions, goals. This is the perfect time to sincerely ask ourselves, who am I living for really? Whose goals am I trying so hard to achieve? What really is the honest source of my motivations? What are the things I am running from and trying so desperately to avoid? Where is Christ in this? Do I involve myself in Christís activities such as private Bible study, going to worship, going to weekly Bible study, private prayer and meditation only when I feel like it? In other words does my level of participation ebb and flow depending on my feelings which are guided by everything else that is happening in my life? Where is my personal participation in the Church, the Body of Christ on Earth on my private priority list? Do I tell others no when they ask me to do things at the few times the Church is meeting or do I tell the Church no because others are more important in my life?

I am sure you have found some of these questions disturbing. If you have been disturbed then listen to God and make things right with God this Lent. Begin by telling everyone else in your life that your time with the Christian Community is sacred time, it is Godís time, it is Godís time to mold the Church into what God needs it to be. That work is done when we are together in the same room where God can mold us through listening to each other. Begin by turning off the television, the radio, the stereo, the computer and reading the Scriptures. Take home the weekly bulletin and review the Scriptures and pray them through. Read some sermons on our website, which I will update this week. Read the Gospel of John this Lent, seriously! Read the Gospel of John this Lent, you will be tremendously blessed.

Some of you probably expected to hear me call for fasting or as some of you remember it "giving up something for Lent" in this sermon and the next six sermons of Lent. That is well and good, but God isnít looking for just fasting, there are far more serious problems represented right here in this very room. We need to be holy. We need to be more holy. We arenít holy enough if we are very honest. What is the definition of holy again? To be holy means separated for Godís purposes.

Am I holy, does the world know I am separated for Godís purposes? That should stop everyone of us in our tracks, separated for Godís purposes.

This Lent, letís take these forty-days and six Sundays to make real changes in our lives. Letís insist that we take this time to get right with God, to seriously adjust the priorities. I am being very, very, serious when I say this. I could go right around this room and make very hard suggestions for everyone here on how each of us needs to move some things, move some people, move some goals over to the left or to the right in our lives because they are trampling on Godís territory, Godís claimed space, Godís rightful place in our lives. Now, if I can do that for you, and I hardly see any of you very often, how much more thoroughly ought each of you be able to see those areas where you are pushing God aside. I believe it is Godís hope that we are seriously feeling the impact of the conviction of the Holy Spirit right in the center of our guts and hearts...... please, for Godís sake and for Godís honor take what I am saying very personally and very seriously.

We are invited to Ask the Holy Spirit to assist us this Lent in bringing conversion into our lives. Every minute of all eternity belongs to God, so please letís stop wasting, stop plundering Godís time. Letís make all time holy, separating it for Godís purposes in our lives. God isnít asking us to stop everything and dispose of everyone and join a cloistered order and start over. That is a general statement, in fact God may be asking that of some of us. God is, however, asking us to put things into Godís perspective and especially big decisions, to be sure we are following Godís design and not seeking our own worldly comfort. If all we seek is our own comfort, our own success, our own financial security, our own physical comfort and security........ well, when it is over, all we will have is a pile of ashes to show for our use of Godís time in this life. This is something everyone of us needs to examine in these next 40 some days of Lent. May God help us as we look truthfully within ourselves.

May almighty God bless you, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

TOTUS TUUS! Totally Yours, Lord Jesus Christ.


May Almighty God bless all of us, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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