Thursday, March 7, 2019

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21; 2 Peter 1:2-11; Joel 2:12-19

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today represents a new beginning. However, it is not a beginning from scratch, but rather it is a return to the beginning from whence you came. “Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Out of dust you were created, and you have often lived very dusty, dirty, and unclean lives, but you have been washed clean, restored and renewed in the blood of Jesus, and you have been marked with the cross, the symbol of Jesus Christ who makes all things new.
For, even now, your God and LORD calls you to return to Him. Yes, after all that you have thought, after all that you have spoken, and after all that you have done that was against His Word and His Will, and after all that you have not done that you should have done, yes, even now, your God and LORD calls you to turn back to Him in repentance, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and to rend your hearts and not your garments; for the LORD seeks not the death of sinners, but rather that they turn from their wickedness and live.Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.
This is a great opportunity for you to stop whatever it is that you are doing and return to the LORD. Stop eating the bread that leads only to death. Stop working and striving to serve only yourself and your selfish desires. Stop walking the path that leads to death and the grave. Stop, and turn around, for the LORD your God has prepared a feast of salvation for you, grain, wine, and oil, that you may be satisfied and be no longer a reproach among the nations.
For, like the Prodigal Son you have strayed far from your loving Father. You have listened to the tempter’s voice and have begrudged your Father the things that He has not given you while you have disdained the good things that He has given you. You have satisfied your flesh and your passions as if this flesh and life were all there were, with no thought that with each breath you draw closer to death and that each breath is granted you by the God who created you and sustains you still. And, while you were fashioned to have a relationship with your Creator, you fled and hid and ran from Him and sought fellowship with men who perform their wicked deeds under cover of darkness and you crave and desire to fill your bellies with that which is unclean, unhealthy, and unbefitting man created in the image and likeness of God.
Repent and be turned, and rejoice that there is something and someone to return to. For, before you turn He is there, and when you turn you will find your Father running towards you with His arms wide open, ready to kiss you and clothe you in forgiveness and to restore you to life with Him. Indeed, He has killed the fatted calf in celebration that you, His child, who was dead, have been restored to life. But, more than that, He became what you are, sinful, unclean, and subject to death, that you might become what He is, holy and righteous and immortal. He sent His own Son into your flesh and became the Prodigal for you. As a man He forsook all the glory and honor that was rightfully His and He consorted with tax collectors and sinners and the likes of you. He lost everything for you, dying in your place as if He were the rebellious son, the whore, the self-righteous Pharisee, the glutton and the drunkard, to win your forgiveness.
Return to the LORD in repentance. Return to your baptismal purity and be renewed, restored, and washed clean once again in the blood of the Lamb. You need only wash your feet and you are completely clean, for there is one baptism for the remission of your sins. That unseen, filthy ash that covers you cannot take away the seal your God has placed upon you and, even still, the cross of Jesus Christ shines through. You are His and He will never leave you or forsake you. Indeed, nothing can separate you from His love which is in Jesus Christ your Lord.
Today represents a new beginning for you. You are forgiven and restored; go and sin no more. Do not return to the corruption of this world, being filled with sinful desires, but remain vigilant in prayer, in fasting, and in doing good to all, especially the least in this world. For, the Lord Jesus is with you and, as He has suffered for you, so He suffers with you and will equip you with grace and peace and knowledge, granting you all things that pertain to life and godliness through which you may become partakers of the divine nature.
The LORD’s call is for you today, and then tomorrow, and then each and every day He grants you breath: Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. Each and every day, die to your self and live to God. Return to the LORD in repentance and live in Christ, in love, in mercy, in compassion, and in forgiveness for the sake of Jesus, to the glory of God the Father, in His most Holy Spirit.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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