Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

YEAR B 2024 ash wednesday

Ash Wednesday, 2024
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tonight, you and I are being given the gift of being reminded that we will die.  I know that sounds flippant; but I’m serious.  It is a gift to be reminded that you will die.  Today is Ash Wednesday, but as you know it is also St. Valentine’s Day, and also St. Cyril’s Day.  We don’t know much about St. Valentine.  In fact, there is no proof that such a person ever existed.  We do however know things about St. Cyril.  For example, he created the Cyrillic alphabet, which is named after him.  St. Cyril did some amazing things with his life, and then he died.

And we are back to the idea that knowing you will die impacts how you will live.  That is the main point of this day, I think.  Knowing you only have so many days, how will you spend them?

I’ve talked about this before on Ash Wednesday, but it bears repeating.  Since we know we will die, it impacts how we live.  Knowing you would live forever is a curse.  Look at Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”  Or look at Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”  Knowing you would live forever—that you would never die—would most likely turn you into a horrible person.  Because nothing matters.  There are no guardrails.  There is no time limit.  You just . . . are.  Forever.  And I would be willing to bet money it would make every single one of us into a horrible person.  Which then suggests the opposite is also true.

On some level, people do good things because they know they won’t be here forever.  Look at all the medical wings at hospitals that are named after people.  Look at the names of the memorial funds in our endowment.  People know they will one day die, and so they want to make a difference while they can.  Because they won’t be here forever.  I mean, the whole reason Ebeneezer Scrooge has his change of heart is because he sees his own tombstone!

So, we’re back to brass tacks.  You have come here tonight to be reminded that you are going to die—even if you didn’t realize that’s why you came here tonight.  And so that raises the question, knowing you will die, how shall you live?  I don’t expect an answer to that question, but I want you to ask it of yourself in this season of Lent.  Knowing I will one day die, how then shall I live?

But I also want you to follow up that question with another question.  Knowing you will live again, how then will you die?  Because for us as Christians, death is not the end of the story.  Yes, we all will one day go down to the grave.  But because we worship a God of resurrection, there is a part two to our stories.  An epilogue, you might say.  Because some day, some how, God is going to call us up from those graves.  Call us up to a resurrected life in a new heaven and a new earth.  

Yes, we are reminded on this day that we will die.  But, because of Jesus, we are also reminded that we will live again.  We can face death with the assurance that there is more.  Though we are dust and will return to dust, that is not the end of the story.  There is more to it.  Because with God, there is always more to the story.  Yes, we are mortal; but we worship a God who is beyond mortality.  One who continues to make all things new.  Even dust.


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