Ash Wednesday, February 14

 Scripture: Genesis 3: 13-19  

13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
    more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
    groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
    and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you.”

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
    though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
    from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.”

 Matthew 27:45-50    

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.

Some thoughts:

     In the Garden of Eden, God formed man from the dust of the earth.  Did you notice where else the word “dust” appeared in this Genesis passage? The serpent is condemned to groveling “in the dust as long as you live.” Think about it. The serpent never rises above the dust, a symbol of death. Humans are raised from the dust into beings fashioned after the image of God into which God breathes the breath of life and man becomes a living soul. But it is in the dust that the serpent creates havoc bringing death to all of mankind. As a result, this body of ours will in fact return to dust (to ash) again. Mankind drags itself down into the dust by a selfish desire to rule itself.  

     You and I have two days that are like no others, the day we were born and the day we die. You see, the Nativity is one of the two days in Jesus’ life that was never to be repeated. God took on human flesh, combining the dust of the earth, represented by Mary, with the eternal glory of heaven, the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of her. In the Incarnation of Christ, the human “dust of earth” was immersed in the eternal Word. Two worlds, earth and heaven, were perfectly united in the holy Son of God, wholly God, wholly human. His death on the cross was that second day, never to be repeated. In Jesus’ death, he mortally crushed the serpent’s head meaning the dust of evil was utterly, eternally defeated. The power of death was destroyed and the human dust of the earth took on immortality. When Jesus released his spirit (Mt.27:50), the grave did not capture his dust, nor will it ultimately hold our dust as we receive resurrection bodies which will never turn to dust. God did something about our dust!

     You see, while Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, it also proclaims the way to heaven has been cleared. The price for our sin has been paid and we are forgiven. Our second unrepeatable day, at the same time, becomes our eternal birth day in glory. In heaven, there is no second unrepeatable day! Hallelujah to the Savior!

Music: “All We Like Sheep” from Messiah

As you listen to this piece, notice the joy and delight of the first part, almost like taking delight in going astray. Sinning can be fun at the moment. But also notice how the ends of the musical phrases “fade away.” Then as the piece concludes, notice the dramatic musical shift as the heavy reality of what the “going astray” has done as the Lord bears the weight of our sin. Sin is never without heavy consequence as poignantly reflected in Handel’s music.


Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we earnestly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

-from Book of Common Prayer, 1928