Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ashes to Ashes...

image We stand at the edge of the grave, peering in. The pastor says those well known funeral words “We now commit the body of our brother to the ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” As we stand there looking at death we realize that our whole lives are spent standing right there at the edge of the grave. The funeral that we attend will be ours, too. Death will claim us.

Today is Ash Wednesday. In many churches today, repentant sinners will approach the altar to receive a sign of morality and death. The pastor uses his thumb to mark the forehead with a dark smudge in the shape of a cross. The traditional words spoken by the pastor are “Remember, O Man, that thou art dust and to dust you shall return.” Again we are reminded of the grave in our future. We are reminded in a vivid picture that “the wages of sin is death.” All who sin, die.

And yet, there is Good News. The ashes are drawn in the shape of the cross. It is at the cross that our Savior faced death. With repentant hearts we remember the price paid by our Savior to save us from our death. Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross to pay the wages of our sin. Jesus dies the death of all sinners. God, the Father, heaped on him the punishment that all deserve. He was crucified, dead and buried. And Jesus Christ rises again to new life. After three days in death He rose again. Death, the wages of sin, is paid in full with the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. Death cannot hold him captive. He has defeated it. Jesus Christ promises new life to us, too. The ashes in the shape of a cross tell the story. Thru the cross, Jesus brings to us the forgiveness of sin we need. Thru the cross and resurrection Jesus promises resurrection for all who look to him only for salvation. The dark cross shaped smudges remind us that our death is coming, but so is our new life in Christ.

“Remember, O Man, that thou art dust and to dust you shall return.”

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