Ash Wednesday 2009

by The Rev. George F. Borghardt III

Ash CrossIn the name of Jesus. Amen.   Thank God for Lent.  I love Lent.  Just love it.  Thank God for Ash Wednesday.

You should love Lent too!  Get excited about it.  Be joyful.  For in Lent, God takes our eyes off us and our sins and puts them on Jesus.  Jesus is headed to the Cross to suffer and die for all our evil.  Come let us fix eyes on Him.

God reconciles us to Himself.  Not but us moving to God, but by God coming to us in the person of His Son. 

Behold the Father’s love for you:  Jesus who knew no sin has become sin for you.  He became your punishment.  He became your suffering.  He became your beating.  He became your flogging.  He became your death.

Today, to save you, the Lord calls you out of your sins, out of your darkness.  Out of your iniquity to repentance.

Repentance.  It’s a good thing.  It’s rescue from your sins.  Relief from your troubled conscience.   Deliverance from your trespasses.  Thank God for Ash Wednesday!

I know what you think about Lent.  It’s grumpy and depressing.  Dark and somber.  Full of ashes and sorrow.

Yes.  It is.  Thank God.  We need a bit of ashes.  We need a bit of God giving our lives a hard look at our lives.  We need the Lord to call us out of our sins.

For, dear friends, our lives are so terrible.  The dreadful things that we do to God and to one another. 
We confess that we sin daily and much, then we do just that.  Proudly, boldly, as if we are rubbing it in God’s face.

And don’t dodge it.  Don’t excuse yourself.  Don’t think it doesn’t apply to you.  Don’t think that someone else needs ashes on their forehead today.  No, you do.  This Law applies to you! 

Or do you actually think you who despise God’s name and His Word will inherit the kingdom of God?  Do you think that you who disobey your parents, who mess around outside of marriage, who put yourself first, who commit adultery, who practice homosexuality, who steal from their work - both money or time, who covet, who get drunk, who party so hard that you cannot remember what you did, who extort the poor, will inherit eternal life?  Really?

Well, those seem a bit extreme.  Let’s instead talk about the gossip you spread.  Do you realize that it destroys others and plant seeds of evil against them?  You may cover it up like a cat covers it’s business in the cat box.  But, do you think the Lord is pleased with you?  Really? 

The hatred you have for others.  It runs so deep.  You say you can’t forgive them.  You won’t forgive them.   Do you even remember why you are mad? Do you think He forgives you?  Really?

That thing you thought in your heart, that evil intention, that coveting that you bury deep, the greed, the avarice, do you think the Father doesn’t see it? That porn on your computer that is hidden - do you think it is hidden from Him? 

It isn’t.  The Father is hidden.  He’s sees all the hidden parts of you.  He knows.  How is He going to repay you for your evil?

Now, Lent rolls around today and we get grumpy cause here is Jesus telling us to give up our treasured possessions - our sins. 
So, we make a big show.  Get religious.  Maybe even fast from something small - like go on that diet we really should go on.

And if that is what your Lent is - some self improvement season or time to get grumpy or sad because you have to give up your favorite sins or start working out your Christianity.  Then, you’ll do what you do before those around you - you’ll fast, give, pray, and you’ll get your reward in full.

“In full” means... That feeling that you’ve done something for God, that feeling that you’re improving, that you are doing better, that people think the world of you.  That’s the only reward you will get from God.  And when you die, that feeling will die with you.

“But, Pastor, we are only human.  I’m not perfect.  I am getting better.”   You aren’t only “human.”   You’re fallen, a fallen son of Adam.  From Adam to now - consumed with your self and what you want all the time. 

Yes, you have some success licking one sin, then another takes it’s place.  Along with self-righteousness.  That feeling that although you just really messed up - at least you are getting better.

Did God understand Adam after His sin?  No.  Do you think Adam was safe hiding from God?  He wasn’t.  The words, “For dust you are and dust you shall return” were first spoken to Father Adam. 

And die Adam did.  You will too.  Then what will you do?  When all your sins are brought before you?  All the filth that you have done to others?  All of the hidden is before you.  What will you do?

Today, to save you, to rescue you from your sins, to bring you from the everlasting damnation that you deserve from your own personal idolatry, the Father has brought you into another Lenten season.  He has given you another opportunity to repent of your sins and turn from your evil.

That’s the joy of Ash Wednesday and Lent.  There’s joy in repentance.  There is rejoicing in being freed from your sins. 

Today, Jesus rescues you.  He breaks into your world and like a child takes your face and turns it toward the Father.  To tell you the hard word of Law.  He has put ashes on your forehead.  He’s reminded you of your death.  Dust you are.  Dust you will become.

But, your Heavenly Father has more in Lent.  He has Jesus.  Fix your eyes off you and bring them to the Cross.  Watch Jesus making His Way to the cross for you through Lent!

Watch what Jesus does.  He did really completely fulfill the Law for you - every Law.  He loved His Father above all things.  He loved you as He loved Himself.  He never sinned.  Not once, not ever.  And He did that not sinning for you.

Then, He took upon Himself your sins, your punishment, your beatings, your shame, even your death and suffered and died to free you from them.  To wash your sins away - not with some false “it’s going to be better for you,” but by His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and innocent death. 

And all your sins died with Him.  All your disobedience, all your transgression, all are forgiven. 

“Jesus’ cross alone can vanquish the dark fears and soothe this anguish.”  (LSB 608,v 3)

Lent is here.  Time to fast from your sins.  Give them up this Lenten season. Take everything that you so desperately cling to as most important and dump it on the ground and receive Jesus’ gifts - in the Word, in the waters of your Baptism, and His Supper. 
Lent isn’t only about your death, but Jesus’ death for you.  His suffering and death for all your sins.
That’s why it’s a cross on your forehead!  It’s there to remind you that you died with Him in your Baptism. 

Death.  There’s nothing to fear in death.  You’ve already died in Christ in your Baptism.  You rose with Him to new life.  New life in Him - in Jesus.

In your Baptism, a cross was placed on your forehead and heart to mark you as one redeemed, bought back by Jesus.  Bought back from how you lived before.  Redeemed from your disobeying Him and His Word.  Redeemed from despising His gifts, redeemed from your disobeying mom and dad, redeemed from your hatred, lust, stealing, gossip, coveting, freed from all your sins.  Not in you trying to do better, but in Jesus, who truly did by His death save you from all you have done. 

You have nothing to separate you from God.  No wraith.  No punishment.  And certainly no hell.  There is nothing to fear from God.  It has all been taking away by Jesus death on the cross. 

Watching Jesus move to the Cross during is watching our salvation being accomplished.  That’s what Lent is all about:  The Father’s love for His creation shown in the death of Christ for us.

So, no drawing attention to yourself.  You can wipe the cross off your forehead after service.  Clean your face.  Smile and be happy this Lenten season.  Be redeemed - from your sins, from your hell, and from the death itself.   For your Father, who saw what Jesus did for you will reward you. 

Thank God for Lent.  Thank God for Ash Wednesday.  For the Lord has saved us again, called us out of our sins. 

Lament your sins.  Confess your wretchedness.  Then, receive full pardon.  Know that without doubt the Father’s final word on you today is, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  INI. Amen.

Rev. George Borghardt is Youth/Associate Pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Conroe, TX. In addition to serving as Conference's Executive, Pr. Borghardt is the author of the 2009 Lenten Reflections.

Created: February 25th, 2009