Ash Wednesday 2014

Ash Wednesday
Matthew 6:1-21
March 5, 2014 A+D

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

By moths, rust, and thieves the Lord teaches us that all material things are perishable. What moths will not eat, rust will not corrode or thieves will steal. If you put your trust and hope in those things, you will not merely be disappointed, you will damn yourself to Hell.

This is a serious threat and danger for us who live in a material world. Our daydreams and check book registers show what we treasure. There may be no better measure for what you value than how you spend your money, unless it is how you hoard your money. Repent.

Everything on this mortal plane turns to ash – including us. Our bodies are infected with sin and the wages of sin is death. Thus our bodies are failing: we are dying. Remember, O man, that you are dust and to dust you will return. We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

Heaven and earth pass will away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Thus we can turn from temporary things and store up treasures where moth and rust do not destroy. Our hearts, even now, can be with Jesus.

This is more than merely wishful thinking or emotionalism – the way some people send prayers out to their friends on Facebook. Our hearts are with Jesus when we put our hearts where Jesus has promised to be, that means not simply our affections, but our bodies and our treasures.

Our hearts are with Jesus when we put away our phones and sit and listen to His Word. Our hearts are with Jesus when we give our attention to His Word and discipline ourselves to not day dream. We are called not simply to an ex opera operato reading of Holy Scripture, but to a careful and deliberate hearing of the Word. We are called to study and contemplate and pray with the Scriptures. There God speaks to us. He reveals Himself in the history of His people, in His prophets, and in the Psalms, and, now, in these last days, He reveals Himself to us in the Son. We have the Gospels and the Apostolic Scripture. His Word does more than instruct. It delivers the Holy Spirit, forgives sins, and creates faith. It takes our hearts and puts them with Jesus.

God never commanded that we put ashes on our heads. But He did once command that we consider His Name as frontlets for our eyes. He said: These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Our hearts are with Jesus when His Word is in our ears, on our minds, and on our tongues. His  Word is meant to be the topic of conversation at our family tables and living rooms, as well as with our friends and co-workers.

Our hearts are with Jesus also when we receive the Holy Communion. The Lord has taken up our Flesh. He has joined Himself to our dust. He suffers the ultimate decay: His body fails and He dies. He is picked at by moths, dies among thieves, and is stabbed by a rusty spear. That is what He came to do: He came to die. But His Word does not return void. Our salvation is won. Death is defeated. Hell has lost its claim. It is finished and water and blood pour forth to quench Hell’s fire and to stop decay. Jesus takes up His Body again. It suffered corruption to the point of death but then it decayed no more. Now it is imperishable, transformed into what humanity was meant to be even before the Fall but maintaining the sanctifying marks of nails and spear.

We, of course, still live where moth, rust, and thieves attack. Our bodies are yet failing and racing toward the grave. We are dying. So the risen Lord in imperishable Body comes to us in perishable food. He gives His imperishable Body and Blood in perishable bread that we who are perishing might partake of Him and be saved. The corruptible puts on the incorruptible because He was corrupted and dead but now lives. In the Holy Communion, Jesus joins our hearts to His. They are with Jesus and He is our treasure even as we are His treasure – worth all He had that He might come and dig up our bodies on the last day and make them like His glorious body.

Everything on this mortal plane turns to ash – including us, but it will not last. Even the turning of ash turns to ash and the day comes when we will be raised and follow Him not only through death but also out of the grave and into life, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Then our hearts will be where they belong.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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