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.
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.
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
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
1:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter
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
1:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit
1:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing
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.
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
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
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:
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
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:
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.