Happy Ash Wednesday!

Posted by admin on February 18, 2015 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

Happy Ash WedIMG_1730nesday! I didn’t have time to attend a service today, but a lot of my students came in from parochial school with marks on their foreheads.

At the Methodist church where I served 14 years the pastor used to have everyone solemnly contemplate and write their sins on pieces of paper. After a quiet time of prayer, confessing my sins to the Lord, when I was ready, I joined others in line and took my turn nailing my sins to the rough cross laid on the altar steps. The weight of the hammer in my hand and the thudding blows on the nail drove the message home to my heart.   Lord Jesus, thank You for taking all my sins on the cross. Thank You for suffering for me.

The old rugged cross was covered with white squares of paper, pierced with nails.  All my habitual, deliberate, and even unacknowledged sins were paid for on that cross.  To signify the forgiveness Jesus purchased by His death, Pastor John would rip the papers from the nails and burn them all together in a brazier.  The fire flared, smoke ascended, and then the ashes were ready.  You are forgiven, he whispered, as he drew the sign of the cross with ashes on each forehead.

I miss that service.  Yes, I can and do confess my sins to the Lord privately every day.  But there is something powerful and poignant about confession at church, confession among brothers and sisters.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

But I have an incredible painting that reminds me daily of my need for the Lord. It was painted by my cousin Lisa Ober who has a gallery in St. Louis. It hangs in the entry hall of my house–of a barren tree reaching skyward.  The dry, twisted branches against a cold sky remind me of the futility of life without the Lord, the deadly results of  my sins, and the hopelessness of reaching heaven by my own efforts.  

Jesus transformed the cross, a tree of death, into a tree of life.  Indeed, He became sin, who knew no sin, for each of us.

The wages of sin are indeed death, but the gift of God is life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is nothing magic about nailing papers to a cross or mystical about ashes on the forehead.  But the Deep Magic, as C. S. Lewis would say, is that, at the Cross of Calvary, death worked backward.  Out of the ashes we rise, thank You, Lord Jesus.






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