On Ash Wednesday the church makes us admit our mortality, finitude, and sin. Not too many will be in church on this day. Few of us are willing to hear—in spite of any of our alleged accomplishments—that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
How can deceitful people (like us!) be that honest? We’re able to confess our sin because we’ve heard a gracious word from God, “You will cry for help, and God will say, ‘I’m here’” (CEB). Only people who are confident that God is here for us can risk honesty about our need for God’s help.
I know someone whose testimony illustrates this truth: “I worked hard in college and did well. Got into the medical school of my choice. A year after finishing medical school I was pulling down $200,000 a year. My practice was booming. Then late one night, returning home at my usual hour, I saw a note on the kitchen table. The note said, ‘We don’t know you anymore. We’re leaving.’ My wife and the kids were gone. For the first time in my life, I fell down. For the first time, my life was out of control, and there was nothing I could do to get it back. I fell down, ten thousand fathoms down into this dark pit. Just before I hit the bottom, I reached out for the first time. And it was like this hand was there waiting for mine. Maybe that hand had been waiting for mine my whole life. I don’t know. All I know is that hand grasped mine. I was pulled up. I was saved.”
Once you know the truth of God’s identity—once you understand that God is the one who says, “I’m here”—you can risk the honesty required by Ash Wednesday.
Thanks, Lord, for being here for us, even in those times when we are not there for you. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s Word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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