Summary: An Ash Wednesday Sermon
’Sign, Ashes = Repentance
27 ¶ After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me."
28 And he left everything, and rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.
30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."RSV
Grace and Peace to your from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Two little boys were playing together one afternoon. They had not been playing long when the larger boy took advantage of his weaker playmate. Georgie, the smaller one, too proud to complain, withdrew some distance and sat by himself, manfully winking back the ready tears.
After a short time, the larger boy grew tired of his solitary play and called, "Say, Georgie, come back. I’m sorry."
Georgie, warned by previous experience, did not respond to the invitation at once.
"Yes," he replied cautiously, "but what kind of sorry? The kind so you won’t do it again?"
Our Ash Wednesday mediation this evening is about repentance. The ashes of this Wednesday remind us of our need to repent. The ashes remind us of the need to change our ways so that we won’t do it again, for that is what repentance really means.
Our theme tonight is how ashes are a sign for our repentance.
The Bible is filled with passages which speak about ashes and repentance.
"therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."" Job 42:6, RSV.
Job is speaking to God and is saying how sorry he is that he became angry with God.
"Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." Daniel 9:3, RSV.
Daniel was repenting for the sins of the nation before god’s punishment would be felt by them.
"Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes." Jonah 3:6, RSV.
The king understood that he must repent and so he rose from his throne and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in a pile of ashes.
""Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Matthew 11:21, RSV.
Jesus is calling on the people of these two cities to repent as did Tyre and Sidon many years ago,
Ashes and repentance have long been associated in the Bible so it is appropriate that on this Ash Wednesday we speak of ashes and repentance.
As John Brokhoff says in his book Cross Purposes "Being conscious of sin, a person would repent and show his repentance sincerely by putting on sackcloth, put ashes on the head and engage in a fast. That is why the first day of Lent is called ’Ash Wednesday ’
It was a special day of repentance. People went to church where they were marked with ashes while the Pastor said: "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust’"to remind the people that the wages of sin is death."
Repentance is a time to be called from ones sin and return to God. But before this day can have any significance, one must think of ones self as a sinner. In our middle class society, that is a pretty tall order. For most of us think of ourselves as pretty good. We rank sin and tell ourselves we haven’t committed those awful sins, so we go around hurting our arms as we try to pat ourselves on the back so much. We must remember that our whole being is rooted and grounded in sin.
Luther said once while looking to Christ; "Thou art my righteousness and I am thy sin." Just think, what good is Jesus if there is no forgiveness needed? If there is no sin. there is no need of a Saviour.
A pastor demonstrated the subtle effects of sin as he talked about a rainbow. Then he reached into his pocket and took out a bubble blower kit. He dipped the wire hoop into the soapy water and began to blow bubbles. The kids ran around trying to catch the bubbles.
The pastor said, "In the sunshine all the colors of the rainbow are reflected from these bubbles. They are pretty and you want to catch and play with them, but when you touch them they burst and only a stain is left t on your hand. "