ASH WEDNESDAY SERMON

The Holywell Community attend the Ashing and Holy Eucharist at Holy Trinity Church Baker Street Abergavenny this morning. During the Service the NS Asst. Curate Fr. Jeff Pearce called us to prepare for renewal.

Fr Jeff’s Sermon in Full:

During this season of Lent we are invited to prepare our hearts and lives for renewal. In our Collect, we asked God, who hates nothing He has made, to create and make in us new and contrite hearts.

Biologists regard the heart as a pump which circulates blood around the body. But we can also regard it as a driving force from which spring our thoughts, our actions, our choices, and our words. So it is a right and good and challenging and ultimately joyful thing during this season of Lent if we carry out some cleaning, pruning, and general sorting out of our lives.

The renewal of our hearts begins in this service with two important steps:

Firstly, our foreheads are marked with ashes – the dust of the earth, as a reminder of our fragility and our complete dependence upon God, the God who hates nothing He has made, the God who loves us completely because we are His very own.

Secondly together we confess our sins and receive God’s pardon.  

Then we are invited and indeed challenged to leave this service to continue the work of preparing our new hearts. The good news is that we have the sure, certain and steady presence of a loving and forgiving God to be with us and to give us guidance and encouragement through the Holy Spirit as we take on this challenge.

A primary part of Lenten renewal is repentance. Another word for today’s Collect’s “contrite” heart is a repentant heart.

So what is repentance?

Firstly, repentance is active, not passive.  Lent is not a season to sit back and let Jesus do all the work. 

Secondly, repentance is about renewal. It is not about wallowing in guilt or shame, fixating on failures, wrongdoings and mistakes – in other words about looking backwards – but about moving forward and making a new start.

Thirdly, repentance is about repair. It is about working with God to repair anything that is broken or that is wrong in our own hearts and lives, and anything that we have broken in the lives of others.

Finally, repentance is about restoration – about healing, moving through and beyond pain, awkwardness and brokenness to restored relationships with God, with ourselves, with anyone else amongst our family and friends and with those we meet in our daily lives. 

Lent gives us the opportunity to repent – to achieve our own redemption and renewal. We can seek God’s help in some form of positive action to take steps to renew and repair our lives. The way in which we do this will vary for each one of us.

We may feel the need to limit or give up something. If we do, we may wish to ask God to help us not to numb any discomfort, but to fill it with something that continues to contribute to our well-being and the well-being of those around us.

But Lent is also about taking something up. Consequently we may choose to take on a new activity, such as attending a Lent group or reading one of the many Lenten themed books which are available. Whatever we take on, it is important that we give it sufficient time to obtain the peace, contemplation and self-examination which are part of Lent.

May we all have a Holy, Blessed and fulfilling Lent – one of repentance: one of renewal, one of repair, and one of restoration.

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