The text is II Cor. The colour has darkened from white to violet. The music is more sombre, the flowers are gone from our churches.
SERMON for Ash Wednesday 2016 (Gospel John 8, 1 -12)
Jesus warns us to practice our piety in secret. We are not to give alms, to pray, or to fast in a way that plays to an audience of other people. Instead, we are to do these things in secret. And in each case a blessing is attached to this secret practice. Hearing these words now, on this opening day of Lent, means that whatever we do by way of Lenten practices is not done for a human audience, whether others or ourselves.
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At first sight Ash Wednesday, or more specifically, the Ash Wednesday rituals must look a bit odd. Imagine being brought into church as a total outsider and witnessing ash being placed on people's heads, in the shape of the cross. You might rightly wonder what on earth was going on; strange lot these Christians. So what is going on? What is the point of Ash Wednesday? And why is so important that we never lose its message? Well, I think that Ash Wednesday calls us back to some of the most foundational characteristics of our faith.