For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Jesus Christ our Lord.
But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
Titus 3: 4,5
In her fictional telling of the life of Jesus, Ann Rice describes a moment when the child Jesus wrestles with an emerging understanding of his identity. In a conversation with his young cousin he explains,
“It’s so simple. It won’t mean anything to you until it comes to you, no matter who you are.” “I want to know,” she said. “It’s this. Whatever is born into this world, no matter how, and for whatever reason, is born to die.”. . . I looked at the first few stars coming through the twilight. Born to die, I thought. Yes, born to die. Why else would I be born of a woman? Why else would I be born flesh and blood if it wasn’t to die?”
In his reflection, he goes on to recognize this is only the beginning of the truth. He was also “sent to be alive. To breathe and sweat and thirst and sometimes cry.”
We begin our Lenten journey today, with Ash Wednesday, and we recall the same truth. Remember, O mortal that you are dust and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19) We recall our mortality, our vulnerability, our powerlessness. It is a humbling and good place to start. On this Lenten journey to Easter, this starting place reminds us that we are not embarking on a casual jaunt, but an essential voyage. At the start, we declare that we are absolutely in need of a Saviour. The smudge of ash that is offered proclaims that the wages of sin is death and we are sinners. There is no escaping this truth. Yet when we look closely, we see that this ashen smudge is in the shape of a cross. And it is in that cross we find hope . . . for there is one who was born of a woman, one who took on flesh, one who is without sin. In vulnerability, he entered this world, lived a fully human life, and died so that we might live.
Easter is 40 days away (not counting Sundays). Today we are challenged to use those days to remember the one who came to give us life and to prepare to fully embrace his passion, death and resurrection. There are a few things you might want to do along the journey. You may choose to give something up and let your body remind you each time you long for that thing or activity that Jesus gave up everything for you. You may choose to serve in a new way, to demonstrate active companionship with Jesus who served in love. You may choose to make a new commitment to prayer or another spiritual practice, to draw near to the one who drew near to us. I encourage you to take time to discern how you can best make this journey with and to Jesus.
Jesus, the very Son of God, was born into this world to fully live and willingly die for us. I challenge you to meet him anew this Lenten season by walking with him through one (or more) of the Gospels. Jesus is always calling us to himself, for it was for you and me he made that first journey to Easter. Perhaps this Lenten season will provide one more opportunity for us to press on to know him more fully and deeply.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to you and acknowledge our sin, our weakness, our failure, and our absolute need. We come with nothing to commend ourselves, but call out to you for mercy and grace. Wash us, cleanse us, renew us and save us, for we know that in you alone we find fullness of life and life eternal. Draw us into your very life as we abide in you, and enable us to experience your grace in new and rich ways as we make this Lenten journey together. For we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let this song be your prayer as you marvel at the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Amazing Grace http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YFGzY_8li8
Contributed by Carla Olsen Draper