Ash Wednesday - the faith race

17/02/10 | Posted by ellen

Today is Ash Wednesday and many Christians across the world will be attending services and having ash placed on their foreheads as they say sorry to God. As the ashes are placed on each person’s forehead these words might be said: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

image
 The race
Well, religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.

But you, man of God, avoid all these things. Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses. Before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who firmly professed his faith before Pontius Pilate, I command you to obey your orders and keep them faithfully until the Day when our Lord Jesus Christ will appear. His appearing will be brought about at the right time by God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone is immortal; he lives in the light that no one can approach. No one has ever seen him; no one can ever see him. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen.

1 Timothy 6.6-16

In this reading from 1 Timothy there is an amazing prayer of faith isn’t there? This prayer calls us to ‘remember that (we) are dust’.
The reading contains a verse that is often used at funerals:

What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! (v6)

And the reading reminds us that we are called to seek after God and not material gain – there is a stark warning isn’t there for those who get their priorities wrong:

For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows. (v10)

How terrible it must be to find faith and then lose it because of the love of money, or the desire for fancy goods or greed!

Thankfully the writer of this letter - Paul - has some clear instruction for the antidote to this sort of faithlessness, he writes:
Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. (v11)

Paul is a realist and he knows that these things take an effort and can’t simply be hoped into existence. Spiritual discipline is required – he uses the metaphor of a race…now, I am not all that fit (I haven’t ever had any organised fitness routine), but Paul expects us to be spiritually race-fit, ready for the race and to do our best – what does he say: 

Run your best in the race of faith (v12)

Because our best is the best we can do…but, quite frankly our best is what is expected!

And sometimes, like any good athlete, we need to get a bit of training in – struggle against our materialistic inclinations and give ourselves a pre-race fitness routine.

Ash Wednesday is a good day to reflect on what we need to tighten up on to get spiritually race fit – as any fitness instructor will tell you (apparently) to get fit you might need to change a few things: make changes to your diet – give up some things; but you might also have to take something on – additional exercise, special training.

So it is when we think about lent – in order to get the most out of the disciple of lent we might think it is a good idea to give something up: chocolate is a classic, the Bishop of Liverpool suggests an ipod fast for lent - you probably have lots of ideas of your own. But, you might also want to take on an activity: spending time with someone who misses your company, keeping a lentern journal, attending a housegroup, walking, extra quiet time – again you probably have loads of your own ideas.

Whatever you do my Ash Wednesday hope for you is that you are able to get race fit and Run your best in the race of faith (12)


see also What have you Given up For Lent.

 

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