St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Sermon

February 17th, Ash Wednesday, 2021              John Marsh

Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


A statement of the obvious, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent…


Lent, the season of Lent, is a shouldering of responsibility…


Truth to tell, responsibility, the shouldering of responsibility, does not require a season nor is it limited to a season. Responsibility, being responsible, owning responsibility, is a mark of maturity, a mark of honesty about the complexities of life, my life, our lives, our openness to calls laid upon our hearts, to responses less than, to histories haunting as the past spooks our present…


Yet, that does not mean we should not have a time, times of intentional reflection, intentional listening, purposeful openings to an otherness astir within the everydayness of life, an otherness often hidden in plain sight…


However, that we have a season of introspection is not to say we have always handled it well, that honesty, that openness wins the day. We have often been diverted, distracted, lied to ourselves, about what is transpiring within our midst often allowing ourselves to see, to respond to, but the speck while blind, unresponsive, to the branch…


Lent is a call to ‘wake up’, to come to our senses, to risk an honesty - the honesty of a deepening self awareness, of a deepening public, communal awareness, a public awareness pushing upon political certainties, taking the risk of a deconstruction, a deconstruction not a destruction, of our sacred structures – structures religious and secular, personal and communal, a deconstruction raising possibilities of reconstructing, raising the spectre of a possibility of an impossibility, impossibilities deemed madness until, perhaps, a surprise of an unknowable arrival, an arrival unexpected to say the least…


Lent is to undertake a response, to respond to the lure of an invitation, a call but barely heard yet stirring within…


Lent is a shouldering of a responsibility – if we dare – responsibilities within practices of prayer and study, within a moderating of embodied and natural appetites, within responses to otherness – almsgiving and hospitality, within compassion, most importantly compassion expressed within the mundanity of ordinary life…


Lent is taking a risk, risking a change with no guarantee, risking the uncertainty of depth, perhaps new depths of living, the ‘tehomic’ depth of possibility within life, as spirit continues to hover over creation and brood within¹…


Lent is that time to consider, to reconsider, the excess within life, that which is more, that which is, at times, named as holy, sacred, wisdom, most often indicated by the name ‘god’, unfathomable unknowable mysteries stirring within the name…


Lent is that time to respond to the unknowability of a call to a movement – god’s reign on the move – Jesus on the move – spirit on the move – people on the move – in hope of healing and restoration, in response to an invitation to ‘let go’, to leave behind that which binds, to leave behind that which ensnares, to leave behind yesterday going beyond the limits of others definitions, to be ‘raised up’ with new strength to take one’s place in the world in service to creation…


Lent is a statement of possibility…


So, is it not possible, if we risk response, that the reign of god is drawing near?


Perhaps…


Is it not possible that the story of Jesus bursts beyond Nazareth, beyond the synagogues, beyond churches, beyond Capernaum and beyond Galilee, unfolding within creation?


Perhaps…


Is it not possible that you cannot remain who, what, or where you are?


Perhaps…


Is it not possible that spirit is moving on, inviting a ‘letting go’: of jobs, sicknesses, ‘sins’, past definitions, and limitations, to start fresh in the unknown of a new future?


Perhaps…


Is it not possible?


Perhaps if we, if you, dare response, risking faith, hope and love…


And so, I have a deep love for Ash Wednesday…


I’m attracted to beginnings, to the possibilities of beginnings, to possibilities within, possibilities perhaps pushing, stirring, probabilities…


Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is the beginning of possibilities of honesty despite being haunted by past stories, past beliefs of our ‘essential’ depravity…


So perhaps hoping against hope, I pray you have a holy Lent…


 ¹ Tehom is the Hebrew word for deep, depth, the deep over which spirit hovers.