Ash Wednesday 2022

Ash Wednesday 2022

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

My brothers and sisters, I pray that you have a good lent a lent refocused on Jesus Christ. A lent refocused on what good you can do in the world. A lent refocused on a new new life of prayer.

The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


the Gospel for Ash Wednesday gives us the model of a good Lent, a good Lent being giving alms, a good Lent being praying to God your Father, and a good Lent being fasting. And in each of these three sections of the gospel, we’re told exactly how to do that.

And it carries on reading from our reading on Sunday, we were talking about the goodness in our hearts. We were talking about the fact that the good works, good actions, good deeds. A good Christian life comes from within your heart, within your soul. And if you’re not in the right place with God, then your outward actions will not be great either. And so Lent is an opportunity to reset your relationship with God, to reset your life within the bounds of the Christian life that Jesus calls to.

And we are given these three ways of doing it. First of all, to give alms during lent. We should think very carefully about those causes, those people, those situations where our money, meager as it may be, could make a difference. So supporting the food bank here at the Church, supporting people in Ukraine with the various charity appeals that are going on, there are lots of ways that your money can make a difference in the world. That’s the outpouring of good that is in your heart.

But don’t do it to make yourself look good or to make yourself feel good. That’s not the point. You’re not giving money to look good in front of your peers. If you’re shouting about how much money you give to charity, then you’re not doing it for the right reasons. And the reason Jesus pulls that apart is because it shows a disconnect between the actions and the heart.

And of course, that’s what the word hypocrite means. It doesn’t mean in its modern sense we have today where you say one thing and do another. But what it means is that the connection between your heart and your soul and the action isn’t there. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that if you’re doing something good and it is obviously good, giving money to charity is a good thing, but you’re only doing it in order to look good, then you’re not doing it in order to serve God.

And that’s what hypocrite means. So I do it for the wrong reasons.

The second part of the gospel tells us how to pray, and in lent, we have an opportunity to examine our prayer lives. We’ll be exploring that in the Lent course as part of Holy habits. What is your daily prayer life like? In 40 something days is just about the right amount of time to form a new habit.

So look again at your prayer life in Lent. Are you praying? Are you praying at all? Are you praying every day? How are you praying?

Examine it spend time in prayer every single day. The thing that I always recommend is that if you find it difficult to pray during the day, then when you wake in the morning and your feet touch the floor, say the Our Father. When you go to bed at night and your feet leave the floor, say the Our Father, start there and everything else will quietly go on. It’s not about coming to Church more often and being seen here. It’s not about being publicly more pious.

It is about developing your personal relationship with God through prayer.

And then finally fasting. This is the thing that, of course, gets dropped most frequently. And in fact, it seems now that there is a – let’s call it a fashion – that instead of fasting you take something up. So instead of giving something up, I’m going to take something new up. I’m going to learn something new.

I’m going to spend some extra time in devotions. And I’m afraid to say I think that falls into the trap that Jesus warned us about in prayer. It’s about being publicly pious. The idea of fasting is that you deny yourself something so that you may understand in some small idea the suffering that Jesus went through for you. You deny yourself quietly and subtly so that your mind is concentrated each time you feel hunger or you go to do something and you correct yourself and that’s what the action of fasting is really about.

It’s a way of helping you correct any bad habits that you have developed through greed, gluttony. And I appreciate that it is me stood here telling you that.

So fast. Give something up for lent that you may be focused on Jesus Christ when you physically react to that fasting.

Pray not, ostentatiously, not piously in public, but quietly in your room at home.

Give alms, not to feel good, but because it is the outward action of a good and Holy relationship with God.

My brothers and sisters, I pray that you have a good lent a lent refocused on Jesus Christ. A lent refocused on what good you can do in the world. A lent refocused on a new new life of prayer.