I just read about a man who had been in an accident. Standing at the scene he said, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
One of the bystanders said, “But sir, you’ve just been in a terrible accident. You’re bleeding and have some deep bruises. There may be some internal damage.”
But the man was adamant, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
The bystander persisted and said, “Well, at least let a doctor check you out. They’ve sent an ambulance. It won’t take long.”
But still the man argued, “There’s nothing wrong with me.” And walked away from the accident. His wife picked him up and they drove away. Later, it was reported that he had died from internal bleeding.
“There’s nothing wrong with me.” That’s a dangerous phrase to use after an accident, don’t you think? Because we may not know what’s wrong with us our how the accident affected us.
“There’s nothing wrong with me.” That’s a dangerous phrase to use today as well. For this is a day of truth; a day to remind ourselves why we celebrate Easter. It’s a day of beginnings. A day to begin that Lenten Journey of renewal so we can truly celebrate the Joy of the Resurrection of our Savior and all that it means in our everyday life.
Lent is that time of preparation and introspection. There are a couple of things to remember about Lent.
The Lenten season is a time of Repentance. We are invited to bring our sins and lay them at the foot of the cross. We are invited to unburden our souls in repentance.
That’s what God has in mind for us when he says, “Return to the Lord, your God….” Return. Turn back. Repent and begin a new life. Lent is a time of repentance, a time for confession and the beginning of a new life. Because, as the prophet Joel tells us, “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
But sometimes that’s hard to do. There’s a story about a boy who jumped on the bumper of his Dad’s pickup in order to snitch a ride across the pasture. His Dad didn’t see him.
The truck hit a bump and boy slipped, grabbing the ball hitch. He started hollering and screaming. He was drub about 20 yards before his father heard him.
When Dad stopped, he ran back and found the boy still holding on to the hitch. Dad could see his son wasn’t seriously hurt, though his knees might be a bit scraped up. It was then that Dad asked the obvious question. “Why didn’t you just let go?”
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to let go of the sin in our lives. It’s hard to let go of bad habits, pride, fear, lust, anger and a hundred other sins that plague us. But the truth is, God truly does want us to let go. That’s the invitation of Lent, to let go through repentance.
Lent is just about Repentance though. Lent is also about Reconciliation through Forgiveness. Lent tells us that God so loved the world He gave his only Son in order to grant us forgiveness. Jesus reminds us of that over and over again. Our God, is a God of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
An old Scottish clergyman once said that the devil really has only two lies to tell us. The first lie comes before we commit a sin. We’re told that it doesn’t really matter what we do. No one else is going to know.
The second lie is more insidious, it comes after we’ve sinned. We are told that we are so bad, no one can forgive us for what we have done, not even God.
Both are lies, God knows and we know when we sin. It wounds our soul and breaks faith with God. Lent is a time of repentance. But it is also a time of forgiveness. This whole season is God’s response to the second lie. The Good News is that God loves you. Period.
And Lent tells us that no sin is too great to be forgiven . God who can see within our heart and opens His heart to forgive us. Lent is a time for Repentance and Reconciliation
And finally, Lent is a time of Renewal. Contrary to most people’s opinion, Lent is a time of hope, a time of renewal, a time of refreshment. It is a time to turn over our burdens to the Lord, knowing that God will receive them in forgiveness and love. You see there is freedom and power and energy in being able to let go.
A pastor in San Diego was called into the sanctuary early one morning. The custodian wanted him to see a strange offering that had been left on the altar. Hanging on the altar were a pair of brown corduroy pants, a belt, a white T-shirt, a pair of tan suede boots, and a note. There were blood stains on both the shirt and on the note. The note consisted of only three words, “Please listen God.” It was signed and included a phone number.
The pastor dialed the number. A nineteen-year-old man answered and told his story. He had run away from home and had been wandering in a wasteland of drugs, drifting from one place to another, getting into all kinds of trouble and involved in all kinds of sordid behavior. The night before, he had hit bottom. There had been a fight and an almost fatal beating. After making sure the victim of his assault would be all right in the emergency room of a nearby hospital, this young man came to the church, found an unlocked door, and went into the sanctuary.
He stayed there all night, crying, and praying. He asked God to forgive him and show him the way to go. All at once the presence of God became real to him. He knew God was there. He felt God’s forgiveness. A wonderful peace came over him. He committed himself to Jesus Christ. He was determined to make right the things he had messed up.
The young man felt fresh and clean, like a new person. To symbolize his new life and new commitment, he had put on some new clothes he had with him in his bedroll and had left his old clothes on the altar as a kind of offering, giving God his old life. He walked out the door a new person filled with a new hope, a new life, a new direction. (4)
That’s what God wants for each of, to feel fresh and clean, to feel like a new person in and through Christ. The ashes on your forehead aren’t magic, they won’t make you the new person all fresh and clean before God. That takes place in your heart when God leads you From Sin to Ashes. The ashes are simply a mark; a smudge; a sign of your decision to seek Repentance, Reconciliation and Renewal through Christ.
That’s the invitation. Receive the ashes as a sign of your repentance and a sign of the beginning of a journey. Leave every burden, every worry, every sin which is weighing you down at the altar tonight. Leave them there. Then Rise, with a dirty forehead but with a clean heart, to begin again.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.