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Archive for February 10th, 2016

Ash Wednesday February 10, 2016

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:1-3)

Our focus during the season of Lent this year is on spirituality. This is the subject for our midweek services, sermons, and devotions. At first glance, it might seem as though we have simply yielded to the interests of the world around us. Just visit any local bookstore, and you’ll see what great attention the world pays to spirituality!

But the spirituality of the Christian, and in particular the Lutheran, is nothing like the spirituality of the world. For the spirituality of the world is something that is self-generated, which is why it is always pursued, but never actually achieved. The spirituality of the Christian, however, is entirely received from God.

This is evident when we remember exactly what spirit is behind the spirituality. Behind the spirituality of the world is the human spirit, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” (Jeremiah 17:9)

But the Spirit to which Christian spirituality refers is the Holy Spirit, Who has “called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

Thus Christian spirituality is receptive spirituality. We all receive grace upon grace from God’s fullness. When we attend the Divine Service, when we hear the Word of God, when we receive the Sacrament of Jesus’ true Body and Blood, we are strengthened in our spirituality: that is, as the post -Communion collect states, “in faith toward [God] and in fervent love toward one another.”

May the almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless your Lenten spirituality.

O God, grant that I seek my spiritual wellbeing nowhere except in Your Holy Spirit, Who comes to me in Your Word; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

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Lent and Ash Wednesday

During the forty days of Lent, God’s baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Lent is a time in which God’s people prepare with joy for the Paschal Feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people’s zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fullness of grace that belongs to the children of God.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15: 47-49

“Image is everything” was an ad slogan a few years back.  “Image” in Greek is “icon”. The Lord teaches us in His Scriptures that we bear two icons:  the icon of the man of dust and the icon of the man of heaven.   Those images are everything. We bear these images at the same time. 

The Lord formed man out of the dust, dust in the Hebrew  is“adam”, the man from the “adamah”, soil.  He breathed into the man the breath of life.  He still does.  “After God had so bountifully offered proof of His goodness, our first parents behaved as though the Devil intended only good and God intended only ill.” (Franz Delitzsch)  They bought that lie after the dialogue with the father of all lies.  And the Lord said to our first parents: 

“…for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return”

(Genesis 3; also Ecclesiastes 3: 20)

The very words this ancient practice of the Church cites on this day. A custom of tracing a cross of ashes on the forehead is not prescribed in the Bible, but it illustrates the reality of  fallen human nature.  The same words from Genesis are spoken at a graveside as the casket is lowered into the adamah.   This is our “natural body”, a “living being” that was meant to live days without end, but now in sin it now returns to an end: dusty death.  The natural is first, the icon of the man of dust.

We live by the Lord’s promise alone, His Word alone, His Word who became flesh, the last Adam, life-giving Spirit:  Jesus Christ.  He is from heaven.  He became entirely as the first man:  dust, a natural, fleshly body… and He became the now fallen and sinful and disgraced natural body.  We heard again on Transfiguration Sunday He shone like the light of heaven, un-borrowed, uncreated light of heaven so that it is unmistakable:  here is God in man made manifest.  The man and the woman were created by the Lord in His own image, in His own image He gave them, male and female, the stamp of His divinity.  The image is cracked beyond human repair. Jesus Christ was and is this perfect image before the Fall and now incarnate and on Golgotha He become utterly broken and debased image of the man of dusty sin and death. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is risen.  He is the life-giver bearing in His hands the marks of the Cross breathing His grace, mercy and peace, His forgiveness into this image and man of dust.     

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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