14th February 2024 7.30pm – Ash Wednesday – Eucharist


Watch this week's service on YouTube

Download the order of service here:

Read this week's Church News 


The Readings

2 Corinthians 5.20b-6.10

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21

‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
Prepared by David, Reader at St Mary's. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Amen.

Treasure is such an evocative word isn’t it? What do you think of when you hear it? Old English coins found buried in a field? Spanish galleons stuffed with gold and silver chased by pirates? Chests of jewels: diamonds, rubies and emeralds? Or something else?

In ancient societies treasure was stored in palaces and temples, under guard, and these places were often plundered when nations fought, or were the target of the thieves Jesus refers to in our Gospel reading.

To store up treasures for ourselves in secure places is a fairly human thing to do. It’s part of how we are wired. Like many other mammals we have a need to ensure we have sufficient to eat and drink and live comfortably. In our society that means having enough to pay for those necessities of life. There is nothing inherently wrong with ensuring we, and those we care for have enough to live. We might think that there is a ceiling to this though. That we reach a level of comfort and don’t need any more money or things.

There was a survey conducted of the ultrarich in the 1990s. They were interviewed and found to suffer from high levels of anxiety related to not having enough money. There were asked how much would you need to be financially secure? Those worth 1 million dollars said 2 million. Those worth 10 million said 20 million and those worth 100 million said 200 million. However much treasure they had, it wasn’t enough. They were still afraid of moth, rust and thieves. Make of that what you will.

But treasure doesn’t have to be something of great monetary value. In the bible treasure is also used to describe something less tangible, like wisdom, the message of the gospel, the kingdom of heaven or people such as the nation of Israel.

I wrote this sermon sat a few feet away from a cardboard box, several of them in fact. This one is different from the others. As well as carrying the name Panasonic, the electronics company that made the video cassette recorder it previously contained, it has written on it the words “Jean’s treasures”. The contents belonged to my mother, who kept things she placed value on. I haven’t fully unpacked it, but most of the items it contains relate to her father. There are notebooks and tools, he was a carpenter by trade, postcards of Italy and North Africa, he served in World War 2, and a carved woodcut he made of the crest of the Royal Engineers.

These were things she cared about, not because they have monetary value or are particularly shiny, but because they belonged to someone she loved and cared for. There were other boxes, old exercise books and children’s art made by my sister and I, or photos of us all as a family, on our own, or with various friends.

Treasure doesn’t have to be worth money to be valued highly. It can have an emotional value due to where it’s come from and who it’s associated with.

We gather possessions, some may have monetary value, others emotional value. This is part of the human condition. Having possessions, to a degree, isn’t an issue for God. Greed, craving more or trying to hold on to all of them is.

I will let some of these possessions go, not because I’m particularly holy or good at shedding possessions, but because they don’t have the same emotional value for me that they did for mum. And what I consider treasure now will likely find its way on eBay or be thrown away after I’m gone.

Our treasures, whether of monetary or emotional value will pass away. Postcards fade, wood rots, metal rusts.
So what does storing treasures in heaven look like? And why heaven?

Store up treasures in heaven because, unlike the palaces and temples of old or the banks and safety deposit boxes of the now, God ensures no moth or rust will consume, and no thief will come in and steal.

What do heavenly treasures look like? Our Gospel gives us some good pointers. Give generously to those who need it and pray privately and humbly. Other than that I recommend some light reading for Lent and suggest Matthew 25.31-40, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

Here we will find what God expects us to treasure.