Have you ever had a moment growing up where you got in big trouble? You tried to get away with something but got caught. And you knew you were busted big time? This happened to me several times growing up, but one I really remember happened in the 4th grade.
My friends and I were playing outside when we decided to go explore an empty house across the street. No one was living there and we found a window that was unlocked. So we climbed through the window and started running around the house. I was going through the living room when someone caught my eye. My mom saw me through the window and gave me "THE MOM” look. I froze. She then pointed to me and told me to come. I left the house and went to my mom. She asked why I was in the house. I have no idea what I was thinking but I replied: “What house? I wasn’t in a house.” She then said, “I just saw you and pointed at you…why were you in the house?” Again, I replied: “I didn’t go into the house.” Stunned in disbelief, she told me to go to my room and that we would talk about it later…when dad got home. I don’t know about you, but in my home if dad had to get involved you were in big trouble. To this day, I have no idea why I lied. My punishment wouldn’t have been near as bad if I simply confessed.
We’ve all been there. We've all had Moments where we got caught…moments where we made bad decisions and looking back we have no idea why. Ash Wednesday is a special day in the life of the church because it forces us to confront these moments. The ashes we receive on our forehead are a symbol of our own mortality and sin. Ashes in the Old Testament represented mourning and repentance in the Old Testament. They reminded people that death and sin are very real. Our reality is one of brokenness. Romans 3: “For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard.” Then Romans 6: “The wages of sin is death.” We are people who have messed up. We have gone our own way, pursued our own happiness, and in the process destroyed our own souls. We have separated ourselves from the very One who loves us and gives us life.
Hebrews 4 puts it this way:
“For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.”
This is a scary verse. This verse and Ash Wednesday reminds us that we have all been busted. We are all exposed. Everything we have or haven’t done is known by God. We may hide it from others, but nothing is hidden from God. This is bad news. No wonder most people skip Lent and go straight to Easter. We don’t want to think about our own sin…we don’t want to think about death. We don’t like ashes. But here’s the good news. I want to finish with a promise. Here’s the second part of the verse:
“This is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. [Because we are lost, broken, and busted…Christ came].
Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him [that is what Lent is all about. Re-orienting our lives on Christ…focusing our attention on him].
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do... [Jesus understands you completely. He knows what you’ve been through. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed by friends, to be abandoned, to be hated, to be lied about…he’s been through the same things as us. But here’s the difference]
...yet he did not sin. [he faced everything we face, he was tempted like we are tempted…yet he did not sin. And because of this the writer commands]
Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”
The ashes remind us of death and sin, but then we have communion right after the imposition of ashes. Communion reminds us that death and sin do not have the last word. Communion reminds us that through Christ, our great High Priest, we have been given the gift of everlasting life. So may this Lenten season be for us a time of renewal…a time of change…a time of focus…and most of all a time of clinging…a season where we cling and trust our gracious Savior.