Our pastor decided to open the Ash Wednesday worship service with a reading of the Commandments, all 10 of them, followed by Martin Luther’s explanation of what each one means, and then time between each one of those readings for personal and silent reflection.
And then readings from Scripture about how God feels about those who keep His Commandments, and those who do not.
That’s the law. That’s heavy duty law. No wiggle room. Law that leaves you (or should leave you) no where to go.
Then, those who wished to receive ashes on their foreheads and the reminder of our mortality with the words “from dust you have come and to dust you will return.”
And then a sermon (not a class as so many sectarian preachers like to give during a church service, but a real sermon) highlighted further our complicity in not keeping the Commandments in so far as we so often ‘will’ not to keep them.
Now there are no modern day ‘Pharisees’ left standing, but all are cut off at the knees by the sharp sword of God’s Law.
Then the pastor relates that he too is complicit in this rebellion (to dispel any notion that some in the church, by virtue of their office or calling, can handle this law project).
Then the pastor, as God’s mouthpiece, hands over to us free of charge, the life giving Word of life, the renewing, liberating, redeeming Word of promise that Christ Jesus knows who and what each one of us we really are, but loves us so much that He was willing to take upon Himself, all our sins. That in that bloody death at Calvary, we were made right with God. Not by anything at all that we do. But by what He did. By what He is doing, and by what He will yet do…for us.
No instructions how to improve. No decisions to make. No principles to follow. No guidelines for Christian living… just death at the hands of a righteous and loving and perfect God. And then life from a righteous and loving and perfect God… in the love and forgiveness that Jesus gives to us from the cross.
And a reminder that all of this, every bit of it, comes to us in our baptisms, as a gift of God. (I know that rankles some)
And, like icing on the cake, we were invited to actually touch, and taste, and swallow that love and forgiveness and renewing Life, in the bread and the wine of the Sacrament of the Altar.
So, once again, God’s Word was done ‘TO US’…and ‘FOR US’.
We are laid low, and lifted high…for His sake.
We sang some wonderful old hymns, received the benediction, and hopefully went home brand new people…yet once again.
Sound a little boring?
Not to me it wasn’t.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Wednesday evening.
( and I TiVo-ed Spongebob…so I wouldn’t have to miss it)
As a sidenote…the movie ‘Lilies of the Field’ will air this afternoon on Turner Classic Movies. (check for time in your area)
I just love this movie about an itinerante Baptist (Sidney Poitier) and a small group of Catholic nuns in the desert Southwest.
It’s a classic.
Filed under: Ash Wednesday, Law and Gospel | 6 Comments »