Ash Wednesday Sermon

A cross on each forehead to remind us of what Christ has done.  Reaching out his holy arm, he has claimed you as his own.  This is in stark contrast to what we do.  Take for example the Tower of Babel:  The people wanted to make a name for themselves.  They wanted to reach to the heavens and without God’s help, or rather, apart from God’s help, be forged into a single lasting memory.

Adam wanted to be like God.  Not understanding that the devil had duped him – because God had already made Adam and Eve in his own image.  And so to make a name for himself, he took the fruit Eve, his wife, gave him and he ate.  We too want to have our name in lights, our memory enduring, our legacy in the history books.

Apart from God, on our own road, we want to forge a legacy.  We love to create a name for ourselves.  But creating this name comes at a cost.  It means that someone else’s name can’t be in your way to the top.  It means that you forget God.  You start to expect all good in other things – in your own life, in your job, in your money, in your possessions… In your own name.  Where do you find your refuge?  With your whole heart – who or what do you trust?

And what of our wicked tongues?  We slander our friends, we betray them, and tell all sorts of lies about them.  We drag their names in the dirt under our feet.  We hold on to their wicked actions and give lip service to forgiveness… because we know better than God.  We know what’s best for our rise to the top and these sinners may get in our way.

Repent.  The kingdom of heaven has come very near.  The Lord Jesus has seen you in the depths of your sin and he comes to you.  Before the foundation of the world he wanted you to have a name that is above every name – so he predestined you to adoption – AS SONS – before the foundation of the world.  He wanted you to have his image, he wanted you to trust in him alone, to love and fear him above all things – this world, the devil, and even your own selves.  And at last to stand as one holy people.  His holy people.

So today a cross is traced upon your forehead, with the very dirt from under your feet, to show you what Jesus has done.  It isn’t the first time a cross was drawn there, no this one is placed where one already is.  For when you were baptized, the Lord Jesus put a cross there and also one upon your heart.  He put them there to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  He wanted a mark placed upon you for the devil to see and even your own sinful nature.  It is this cross that shows who he is and what he has done.  It is with this cross that he is faithful to his promise.

Though great our sins and sore our woes, his grace much more aboundeth.  For when we were making a name for ourselves and traveling our own path, the Lord Jesus came and planted his Word deep within our hearts.  He called you and placed his holy name upon you.  The cross upon your forehead marks you as one washed by Christ’s blood.  For high upon the mountain of Calvary, Jesus was crucified and died – that his death would mean new life for you.

And so in the crucifixion of this Jesus we are gathered together.  We are made new and given forgiveness and life.  Today is the day of salvation – today is the day you have been made great.  Today you eat and drink with the King of kings and the Prince of life.

The cross upon your forehead has marked you for death.  The ash and dust remind us of the decay of death.  Each cross is made slightly different and none of them perfect.  That is how our sin is – individual, yet the same.  However – one cross, one Christ, one God has redeemed you.  That Jesus calls you by the name that is above every name.  Our Shepherd is good and true.  His helping love – no limit knows.  Today the Lord has done great things.  He calls you by name, his Father calls you his sons, he loves you – and the angels in heaven rejoice, for you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and you are called Children of God.

In + Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak