2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10; John 8:1-11
The philosopher Kierkegaard once tried to describe the incarnation of God in Christ. He used this simple illustrative story:
A certain king was very rich. His power was known throughout the world. But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife. Without a queen, the vast palace was empty.
One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was won. He wanted her more than anything he had ever desired. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing. He wondered how he might win her love. He thought, I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me to become the queen of my land. But, as he considered, he realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be certain that he had won her love.
Then, he said to himself, “I shall call on her in person. I will dress in my finest royal garb, wear my diamond rings, my silver sword, my shiny black boots, and my most colourful tunic. I will overwhelm her and sweep her off her feet to become my bride.” But, as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and power he could give her.
Then, he decided to dress as a peasant, drive to the town, and have his carriage let him off. In disguise, he would approach her house. But, somehow the duplicity of this plan did not appeal to him. At last, he knew what he must do. He would shed his royal robes. He would go to the village and become one of the peasants. He would work and suffer with them. He would actually become a peasant. This he did. And he won his wife. So did God consider how He might win humankind. God in Christ became one of us. He took upon Him the form of human flesh to dwell among us. Paul says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.”
Today is the day of salvation because God, right now, extends to us forgiveness and compels us to embrace that forgiveness for the renovation of our own souls, just as He compels us to share that forgiveness to others for our and their benefit.
There are times when I am uncomfortable with the imposition of ashes as we will do today. Because of this once-for-all act of grace that we have received from Jesus – that he came and died and rose again so that we could truly be reconciled to God.
We as redeemed believers no longer need the penitential act of sack-cloth & ashes of the old testament because we are a New Testament people, redeemed and restored in Christ.
Yet today we acknowledge that within that redemption we are still a flawed people who are daily in need of the grace of Christ. We where the ashes not as a sign of penitential ritual but as a reminder that BUT for the grace of Jesus this is where we would be.
As we journey through Lent together let’s focus not on our penitence and sin but on the one that enables us to be clean and redeemed.