Ash Wednesday Joint Service with Cathedral of St James’
Who are you? Who are you really? Most of us have two selves—the public and the secret self. Often the secret self has a hidden agenda or we might call it hidden motivation. How much of the secret self do we allow others to view? Jesus says that when we get our motivations right in our secret places “Our Father who sees in secret will reward you.” What does it mean to get our motivations right and what’s the reward?
Ash Wednesday is the day we acknowledge our private, secret selves. We confess our sins and inconsistencies when we acknowledge that parts of our internal life are inconsistent or out of step with our external behaviors. For example, have you ever said something about a person you wouldn’t say to their face? Yes, we all have. When don’t let our yes be yes and no be no in any relationship, then we resort to harboring demons of jealousy, anger and pain in our secret selves. We set up a disconnect. That’s the hypocrisy Jesus is identifying today in Matthew’s Gospel.
Today is the day to come clean, start new, hit the refresh button, clear the cache and make a right repentance. We need to rely on God’s goodness to guide us rather than our own self fixes. Today we confess our secrets. It IS a really difficult thing to do.
This is exactly why we go to great lengths in our ritual to try to unearth our secret selves on Ash Wednesday. We burn palm branches and smudge our foreheads with the ashes, we play dress up in church clothes, we use fancy words from a book, ashes, water, a wave of hands and all kinds of ritual. This isn’t an act. It is ritual meant to draw us to the one central fact. We are dust and to dust we shall return BUT—and here is the truth: when we die our secret selves will be revealed in Christ, and getting that right now is our work, we shall also rise with Him secret selves and all.
What we are doing today is sounding a trumpet to our hypocritical inconsistencies that the walls of the false self will fall.
As Anglican/Episcopalians we do this in a beautiful, historical ritual filled Service in a publicly acceptable way. Decently and in good order.
We while pray to be as real, authentic, pious and as changed for the good as it is decently possible. Offer our secret selves for healing and transformation.
God knows all aspects of our self. As we bare our souls before God, we have the assurance of his forgiveness and His love.
Let integrity and love and honest inventory of our secret selves be our guide that we may answer the question to well, “who are we, really.”