Get Right Back To Where We Started From

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Lascrossofashest week was Ash Wednesday, the night that launches the liturgical season of Lent. It is a night to become reacquainted with a repentant heart as we enter into 40 days of reflection.  Looking back, we examine, think, pray, submit, course-correct, and sharpen. Our Ash Wednesday service got snowed out for the second year in a row.  This year, that equaled a one week postponement, and tonight was the night. Allow me to offer my reflection with a little help from the 1970’s music scene. 

Why embrace Ash Wednesday?
Genesis tells us the story of when God made man from the dust of the earth and breathed His very life into him. One chapter later, man had rejected God and come under a curse: “…from you dust you are, and to dust you will return.” What a sobering moment. At least two truths are revealed here: 1) God can do the impossible and breath life into dust; and 2) Without Him, that’s all we are.  If there’s no breath, there’s nothing to make the dust alive…we’re just dust. Sing it, Steve Walsh.

Who we are today is shaped by all the experiences and people who have impacted our journey. Do we see that? Do we remember? Do we appreciate it? For those of us who have come to be found in Christ, we have been made into something new. Old things are passed away. Yet, in the embrace of this new life, we can’t afford to forget how we started and who brought us through to where we are now.  If it weren’t for Christ, what hope could we have? Without His intervention, what bondage would still be ours? Without His grace, who would we really be? Ash Wednesday invites us to look back and remember.

It’s important to look back.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “…do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.” The truth of who we were is undeniable.  Why look back then? We remember and we refocus so that we stay centered in gratitude.

An unknown philosopher once said, “Never forget where you started.” That piece of advice helps us to not think too highly of ourselves and to hopefully be gracious to those who are still on their way up. Being mindful of the past is often the difference between hubris and humility. Without a sense of mortality, we can all too easily become indifferent to our need for forgiveness and mercy. Merit and personal achievement begin to subtly replace and overtake true dependence on God. Not so sure about that? Consider who’s currently running for political office and think again. We need the repentant heart. Ask Job. Ask David. Ask the prophets. Ask Simon-Peter. Ask James.

We’re not in Kansas anymore. (See what I did there?)
Here’s some good news: 1 Corinthians 6:11 also declares, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  We are more than dust. Thank You, Lord! By the mercies of God, I’ve been set free!

Tonight, ashes were place on my forehead in the sign of the cross. It served as a reminder of what I am without God and as a symbol of the serious choice I am making to maintain a repentant heart before the Lord.  It is also a prophetic symbol that my victory over sin has been made real through the cross of Christ!

I don’t have to be depressed over past sins (though Godly sorrow certainly has its place).  I do have to turn from them, however.  In Christ, I am made new! Therefore, I can’t afford to entertain the dead patterns of an old life. Tonight, as I look back to my former days of dust, I am so very thankful to the Lord that both the end of my days and my journey there are marked by His life. By looking back at my beginning, I better see the love and mercies of God. May I never forget.

Ooh, and it’s alright an it’s coming on
We gotta get right back to where we started from
Love is good, love can be strong
We gotta get right back to where we started from
Maxine Nightingale

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