Golgotha Bound #1
Ash Wednesday - Lent
There’s a scene in the movie “As Good As It Gets” that I think sums it up beautifully.
In the movie, Jack Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a curmudgeon of a man who makes his living by writing romance novels. The only problem is, Melvin suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He has all these little rituals he has to go through. He locks the door three times. He sorts his M&Ms. He won’t step on cracks. He brings his own silverware to the restaurant here he eats every day. He sits at the same table, orders the same thing and insists on the same waitress, Carol Connelly played by Helen Hunt.
Melvin actually falls for the waitress, does a very kind deed, and through a series of circumstances involving a neighbor and his dog, Melvin winds up taking a road trip. He invites Carol out to dinner during which his comment, though he doesn’t mean it to, gets a little rude and Carol demands a compliment or she’s going to leave. WATCH:
I love that line. “You make me want to be a better man.” That’s exactly what Lent is all about. Jesus makes us want to be better people. It’s as simple as that. The unconditional love we experience through Christ, the Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness that come through accepting Him as Lord and Savior, not only make us want to be better people, they offer the way and the power to become better people. And that’s what draws us here tonight.
I have no idea whether it’s true or not, but I read somewhere that Beethoven was the worst housekeeper of all the famous composers. He would leave unfinished meals on tables and chairs for weeks. He left a full jug of water by the piano – to pour over his head whenever he got too hot. He’d spit on the floor, never using a spittoon, regardless of whether he was composing at home or performing in a palace. And to top it off, whenever his apartment got too messy, rather than clean it, he would simply move. (1)
I’ve felt like that from time to time, haven’t you? It would just be easier to move than clean up. Especially when my oldest son was still at home. He’s sort of a neat freak now, but when he was a teenager, his room was a disaster. The only time it got cleaned was when he was looking for something.
I’m sure he got it from me. I’m not much of a neat freak either. I don’t really like to clean. I do it because it needs to be done but like most men, I could live with the piles and the clutter until it almost took over. I think that’s why we invented Spring Cleaning.
Over the long winter months, when we’re cooped up inside, all that junk builds up and the clutter fills up the place and even the air in the house sort of goes stale. So, what do we do? We throw open the windows, open all the closets and the garage door and start cleaning. We don’t just straighten up. We don’t just dust, we dig down deep and do a deep cleaning.
Here it is Ash Wednesday. We’ve already said that knowing Jesus makes us want to be better people. And that’s exactly what tonight is all about. Season of Lent is a season of preparation and deep cleaning. It all begins, tonight. We throw open the windows of our souls and begin the spring cleaning of our spirits, so we CAN become better people.
Jesus’ ministry took a decidedly different turn as He set his heart on Golgotha and the cross. Golgotha Bound he would be bound at Golgotha and crucified for our sakes.
Tonight we begin that journey with Him. And throughout Lent we’re called and challenged to look at our lives, especially our spiritual lives so that we CAN become better people. As we journey together with Jesus, and get closer and closer to the triumphant celebration of Easter, we prepare ourselves by doing that deep spiritual spring cleaning of our souls. And we begin that process tonight through this observance.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, the passage for our meditation.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NRSV)
 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.
 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; 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.
I. A BETTER PERSON:
As we read this passage and others related to Lent. As we read about our relationship with God and why Jesus came and died, we realize that we need more than just a rinsing or a dusting off, we realize we need a deep cleaning. This night and the season of Lent helps us do just that.
Lent concentrates our minds and souls so we can try once again to be what God has called us to be; what we always hoped we could be. To paraphrase Melvin Udall: “Lent is an excuse to be better… “
“An excuse to be better.” I think that’s a great way to think of what this night is all about. So, what will Lent mean to you this year? The decision is yours. If I may, I’d like to offer a few suggestions. In the tradition of “giving up” something for Lent, how about some of these.
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not gifts of the Spirit or Christian disciplines. Having a thankful heart and giving thanks are.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes of sleep! Instead, get up early or go to bed later and use that time in prayer and devotion.
GIVE UP looking at other people’s faults and worst points. Instead, concentrate on their BEST points for a change. We all have faults. It’s easier for people to overlook OUR shortcomings when we overlook THEIRS first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Check that sharp tongue at the door.
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. “Love truly covers a multitude of sins.”
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. You trust God with your soul, why not your worries, too. Remember, Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about . . . like tomorrow! Live for today and let God’s grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV for one evening a week! Instead, visit someone who is lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Give someone a precious gift, your time! Spend time with the important people, your Family.
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you’d spend on luxuries for yourself could help someone meet their basic needs. We’re called to be good stewards of God’s precious bounty, not consumers.
GIVE UP JUDGING OTHERS A pastor was visiting one of his parishioners, and as they were talking the conversation began to lag. The lady of the house, wanting to pick up the conversation, pointed out her window to her neighbor’s back yard where the wash was hanging on the line. She said: “See that lady next door and the wash she hangs out, see how dirty it is, she never hangs out a clean wash.”
The pastor felt a little uncomfortable and tried to change the subject and quickly drew the visit to a close. As he was leaving, the lady of the house walked out on the front porch with him and again the wash next door was clearly visible. They both realized, at the same time, that this wash was sparkling white, just as white as any wash could ever be.
And that’s when the truth began to dawn on them, it wasn’t the neighbor’s wash which was dirty, it was the window through which they viewed the wash. (2) GIVE UP JUDGING OTHERS.
Those are just a few of the things you can give up for Lent. And I’m sure you can think of things to add. Make your own list. You know what you need to give up. The important thing is to just take Lent as an excuse to be better.
Tonight and during Lent, we’re challenge to move out of our comfort zone. We’re called to stretch ourselves and our souls. We’re called to rise out of the ashes and do a deep cleaning through repentance. And then to dress in the royal robes of heaven. We’re called to clothe ourselves in the righteousness of God. We’re called to clothe ourselves in the glory and beauty of our redemption.
God cleaned us up, inside and out, the day we accepted Christ as our Savior. But we’ve let the dust settle and we’ve been neglectful. It’s time for another deep cleaning. It’s time to throw open the windows and doors of our soul and begin the airing out process so we CAN be better people.
As you come forward to receive the ashes I’d like you to grab two of the Wet Ones. Use one to wash your hands as an active and outward symbol of the deep cleansing Christ is and will be doing in your life during Lent and your desire to be a better person.
Put the other one in your pocket or your purse. Carry it with you over these next 40 days of Lent as a reminder of what Jesus did on the cross for you. Carry it as a reminder of the deep cleaning your soul has already received. Golgotha Bound, Jesus was Bound at Golgotha for the forgiveness of your sins.
Now come and receive the Ashes as a symbol of you repentance.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.