Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016)
- First reading
- Second reading
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 | New Living Translation
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
Return to the Lord
From Joel 2:
That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
A theme for Ash Wednesday could be return to the Lord. It is the words penned by Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth. It is the words spoken by the prophet Joel. Today marks a new season – the season of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday. In another post, I’m going to answer why Ash Wednesday, but at the moment I want to take a look at these scriptures.
Return to the Lord. So many times we make a big deal about New Year’s resolutions. Even though it’s only been six weeks since New Year’s, I’m sure most of us have already laid those aside. I don’t think many see those resolutions as a spiritual exercise or a spiritual discipline.
In both of the passages I highlighted, we find call to return to the Lord. There’s something about the way that it is said that demands urgency. This is not a call that we hear very often anymore. The prophets of the Old Testament were very good at it. Even John the Baptist was good at it. It doesn’t seem like we have that kind of prophetic voice anymore. Return to the Lord, while there is still time. We are reminded that now is the day of salvation. This is a spiritual exercise – this is a spiritual discipline. This is why I love the church calendar and the seasons of grace – for lack of a better way to put it.
Last year our church at the time had an emphasis on revival and renewal – just in time for Spring and in time for Lent (which just so happens to be the Latin word for Spring.) I love the fact that just as we are in the heart of winter (and we are going to get another blast of winter this weekend – apparently cold and then some snow,) we start thinking about how soon all will be well – it will get warmer – and the grass will turn green – and the flowers will bloom. During the winter, the vegetation “goes dark.” But in Spring, it all comes to life.
We have those times – more often than we would like to admit I’m sure – that we get into spiritual winters. Lent is a time for us to renew ourselves – to return to the Lord – to put ourselves back on track. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are dust and to dust we will return – we are human – we are frail. It is only through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection that we are saved and are able to live lives that are pleasing to him – so today – Come, return to the Lord. He is merciful and compassionate and filled with unfailing love for His people.