Summary: A simple, but memorable sermon for Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday — it’s kind of a solemn day. It’s the start of Lent —a word which means “spring” in German. But more than this, it’s the time each year when we intently focus on the path Christ Jesus laid out for us to follow — to be true to his word, true to his calling, and true to the faith, hope and life we share in him.
You know though, sometimes it’s kind of hard to focus on spring when winter is in full force around us. Today it’s been snowing, and within the past week alone, the mountains surrounding our communities have received over 50 inches of fresh snow. For, while we’re beginning to look forward to spring, we have still have to live in the reality that we’re still surrounded by the billions of fluffy white flakes from the Lord’s heavenly storehouses.
Snow — the bible speaks of it often, likening it to that which is pure, clean, and righteous. Truly, the crystal formations of snowflakes are beautiful. There are many different shapes and sizes of snowflakes; amazingly, each and every one is unique.
But despite their uniqueness, snowflakes have one common thing: their dirty hearts. Oddly enough, snowflakes start as tiny dust particles, which serve as the nucleus (or center) of the snowflake.
Like snowflakes, we have been beautifully created by God. We are the greatest of all God’s creation. We are his pride, and his joy; and like snowflakes we are all created uniquely. Yet, like snowflakes, we too have dirty hearts. We’re all marked by sin; we’re all stained at the core of our being; we’re all dirty in the middle. But through Jesus Christ, we can all be made clean. The dirt at the core of our being can be washed way, and we can be made pure in Christ Jesus. Let’s consider how.
WINTER OF THE HEART
You know, our sin nature likes to lurk in the cold winter of the spirit. Just as the dust particle at the center of a snowflake causes it to crystallize, so too does the sin at the center of our hearts. Our sin has a tendency to crystallize our lives and harden our hearts. With time and pressure, our sin nature becomes harder and harder, and builds ice-like layers that separate us further from God, and each another.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13). Therefore, (paraphrasing verse 15) today, when you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the winter months of your soul.
No longer do our lives need to be blanketed in darkness, despair, and the frigid cold of sin’s night. We can live with a steadfast spirit within us. For those who ask, God will restore to us the joy of our salvation, and grant to us a willing spirit that sustains us. Through his Son, God will create in us a pure heart. He will thaw our coldness, and melt our hearts with the bright light and the warmth of Jesus Christ. He will expose the dirt of our lives, wash it away, and make us clean again.
HE PURIFIES OUR HEARTS UPON THE ROCK OF CHRIST
Despite what it looks like outside, it won’t be long before the snow upon our mountains begins to melt, seep into the ground, and flow down to the rivers below. Soon with earth will turn toward the sun in the spring equinox, causing the snow to melt; so too as we turn more to God, will the warmth Jesus melt away the frigid layers that separate our lives from him, and wash away our sin.
Just as David wrote in Psalm 51, Jesus will wash away all our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin. In him, we are cleansed with hyssop, and made clean; and when he washes us, we become whiter than snow. A snow, that upon the surface appears to be clean and white, but as we know, has a dirty core.
Jesus makes us cleaner than this. He is the sun that melts away the coldness of our hearts; and he is the rock which filters the sins from our lives, makes us pure, and sustains us in his life giving water. The Apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth, that the spiritual rock from which the Jews drank was none other than Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
Followers of Christ, Jesus is the one who creates in us a pure heart and renews a steadfast spirit within us. He restores to us the joy of our salvation, and grants to each of us a willing spirit as he sustains us.