Homily from service on March 2, 2022 – Ash Wednesday
By The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
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Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Light cannot see inside things. / That is what the dark is for,” says poet John O’Donohue (Source, p. 15).
This line has been with me as I contemplated the arrival of Lent. Unexpectedly, O’Donohue begins this poem, entitled “On Light,” by drawing our attention to darkness.
As the seasons begin to shift, as the sun surfaces and the days lengthen, as we enter this sacred season of preparation for the ultimate light, my attention is captured by this notion that in order to see deeply – to see the fullness of our experience – there must be darkness as well as light. For O’Donohue, if our thoughts are to offer “true light,” if they are “to hold the layers of truth,” they must carry “the weight of shadow.”
In this image – this dynamic interplay of light with dark – I hear an invitation into the season of Lent. An invitation to attend to the whole. To see more fully. To try to sense the ways in which God is present in all of life. ///
Today’s Gospel offers practices for drawing our attention toward our relationship with the Divine, as well – these three expressions of piety that we have traditionally used to describe Lenten practices: alms-giving, prayer, and fasting. The author of Matthew offers a caution: let your alms-giving be done in secret; let your prayer take place in private; let your fasting go unnoticed by those around you. Perhaps the author of Matthew is highlighting a concern that some of the pious practices of their time may have been motivated more by desire for social prestige or earthly recognition than by a desire to seek God…to turn and return to God. It seems, though, that the author was also pointing toward simplicity, toward practices and habits that might help us notice God’s presence. “Whenever you pray,” Matthew has Jesus say, “go into your room and shut the door” (Matt 6:6).
In this gospel passage, I hear congruence with the interplay of dark and light: whatever your practice, find a way to slow down, to linger in the shadows, to see beyond the glare of glittery distractions to the fullness of who you are, and where you are, and the transformation to which God may be calling you as you walk this Lenten path toward the cross. ///
You know, it’s ironic that on this day when we’re explicitly discouraged from advertising our spiritual practices, we all line up literally to mark our piety on our foreheads. Our practice may seem incongruous with Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, but I, for one, am grateful. Seeing in the shadows, praying in private, fasting and giving alms in secret…this can feel lonely, isolating. And the truth is, each of us will walk our own path this season.
So, when I see all of us lined up to mark the beginning of Lent on our very bodies, when I know that in sanctuary after sanctuary around the world, so many other people are marking this season along with us, I feel accompanied.
We are all in different places, true…Yet we are all given the same invitation: to notice; to attend to the full range of life’s experience; in the words of O’Donohue, to “look into the heart” with “the kindness and reverence of candlelight.” Together, today, we are marked with a sign of our shared mortality and our solidarity.
So, enter this season of Lent knowing that you are accompanied // knowing that there is a richness, a depth, a transformation that you are being invited into, in your own way.
May God give us the grace to see. Amen.