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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustdestroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)

 

out of the ashes

Chad Karger

(I'll be blogging once a week. Each entry will follow the sermon series I'll be teaching at CyFair Christian Church entitled Standing on God's Promise. You can find the podcast to these sermons at cfccnet.org.)

The imposition of the ashes at the beginning of Lent is a peculiar tradition. The cross smeared on our forehead is meant to remind us, and anyone we see immediately after the service. It is a reminder of where our story begins: in the dirt.

“There was no man to work the ground,” says the narrator in Genesis 2:5. God’s “very good” creation was designed with a caretaker in mind. The rich soil of the garden yielded and supported life; it supported the good life for God’s pleasure. It only makes sense, then, that God would scoop up the soil and breathe “into nostrils the breath of life,” (Genesis 2:6-8) and thus create Adam.

The ash reminds us of our beginning. We came from the dust. We are created and shaped by the creator God. God is the source of our life. Smearing the ash across our foreheads is a messy reminder that God creates from nothing, from dirt. To be sure, we are prone to forget.

Adam and Eve forgot.

Instead of trusting the One who had made them and knew them best, Adam and Eve followed each other to a place of isolation and shame. 

“Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were both naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made for themselves loincloths,” (Genesis 3:7). As busy as they were were in trying to cover themselves, death’s shadow loomed over everything they were doing. It was a futile fight to survive. They were in charge and they were lost. Their self-consciousness was like quicksand into which their mind, body, and souls was sinking. 

The ash reminds us that we, too, are slipping back into the very dust from which we came. It reminds us of how we crumble under the weight of our sin and shame: From ash you have come, to ash you shall return.

And so it is, unless God comes looking for us. “Where are you?” God called out to Adam. The ash isn’t simply mockery of our life. Its shape points us to Jesus. Surely, we will return to the dust if not for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our desperation meets the hope we have in Jesus in the ash smeared across our forehead.

Where are you? That’s a great question to begin Lent. Adam’s answer only proves his confusion. Thankfully, God provides a covering of grace for nagging shame.

Where are you? That’s a great question to begin Lent. Adam’s answer only proves his confusion. Thankfully, God provides a covering of grace for nagging shame.

Where are you?

While you may not like the answer to the question, the journey of Lent guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit of God will lead you to the resurrection of Jesus! God’s grace poured out of the tomb. Every Sunday in Lent leads you a step closer to Jesus, to standing on the promise of God.