Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday, A Service of Penitence and Confession

Ashes remind us of our mortality. In the early days of the church Christians fasted for 40 days between Good Friday and Easter. In more recent times the Church decided that in the 40 days before Easter we will bring the cross into focus and call people back to the core commitments of following Christ, remind us that the cross costs us something, and cost Christ everything.

Darlene played the beautiful hymn Beneath The Cross of Jesus for the intro into worship.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of Thy face
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Scriptures were read from Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
and from the gospel of Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Pastor Brad’s meditations revolved around the heart. Proverbs 23:7 states that “as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” In the Bible the heart is considered the seat of emotion, as well as the seat of decisive action. Luke 6:45 speaks of good people bringing good from the good they have stored in their heart, and evil people bring evil from what they have stored within. Faith is a matter of the heart, an internal reality.

Every one of us will die one day. Our heart will stop. But you, your soul, your mind, your intelligence does not ever die, and our bodies will also be resurrected.

Brad gave a challenge to us tonight to consider whether our heart is right. He said he is not asking if your social life is good, if your intellectual life is good, or if your body is in good shape, but if your heart is right before God.

We often prepare for retirement with a 401K, we prepare for health emergencies by getting insurance. We need to be prepared for death by knowing that our hearts are right.

God created us in his image to live in harmony and fellowship with him, but we live in a sin ravaged world. We have been separated and alienated from God, and have turned our back on Him. Christ has broken the bonds of death and God’s gift of salvation is available but we must reach out and accept it.

“Yet even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Joel 2: 12-13

We then went forward for the Imposition of Ashes, read a prayer of confession together from Psalm 51:1-17, and sang “As the Deer.”

“You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You.”

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