The Lord be with you; and also with you.
We lift up our hearts; we lift up unto the Lord.
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, look with favor upon us your children, forgive us all our sins, and comfort us with the promise of resurrection to life everlasting; through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn “Who Trusts in God a Strong Abode”; Lutheran Worship 413
Who trusts in God a strong abode
In heaven and earth possesses;
Who looks in love to Christ above,
No fear that heart oppresses.
In you alone, dear Lord, we own
Sweet hope and consolation,
Our shield from foes, our balm for woes,
Our great and sure salvation.
Though Satan’s wrath beset our path
And worldly scorn assail us,
While you are near, we shall not fear;
Your strength will never fail us.
Your rod and staff will keep us safe
And guide our steps forever;
Nor shades of death nor hell beneath,
Our lives from you will sever.
In all the strife of mortal life
Our feet will stand securely;
Temptation’s hour will lose it power,
For you will guard us surely.
Our God, renew with heavenly dew
Our body, soul, and spirit
Until we stand at your right hand
Through Jesus’ saving merit.
The season of preparation has begun. Easter is 46 days away. Today is Ash Wednesday. I am reminded the FUNERAL SERVICE when the body is committed to its resting place: “We no commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
A form of those words are spoken for the very first time in the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says to them – “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)
Remember, O Man, that you are dust. From dust you came. To dust you shall return.
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. A stark reminder of from whence we arose and to whence, all other factors being equal, we shall return. We are by nature and deed – a walking, talking, thinking, doing dust bags.
There is not much value in dust and ashes. In fact it is often less than worthless – it is a hindrance and a liability. You can’t make it pretty by painting it, or smell good by spraying perfume on it. Dust is dust, ashes are ashes – and the plain fact is they both are largely to be avoided.
And that is us too. When all is said and done – our righteousness is like rags upon us; our virtue is but a spray of perfume upon thoughts, feelings, and deeds that are best buried and forgotten.
Ash Wednesday presents us with our own funeral; the inescapable fact that we will die. The inescapable fact of what we are.
But “Listen, I [will] tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor15:51-57)
It is Ash Wednesday, and while we gather to remember who we are, we also gather to remember who God is – and what God has done for us in and through Jesus.
We gather – because – all other factors are not equal.
God has given us a way out of our plight of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. It is the way of the Cross. The death of Jesus was God’s way of placing infinite value upon that which would otherwise be worthless. Today it is for us to know and realize that God has chosen to give us some other life than that which leads to the dust heap and the ash pit. In the cross God gives us the life of His Son Jesus.
Remember, O Man, that you are dust. From dust you came. To dust you shall return. And by the Grace of God in Christ Jesus, from dust you shall rise!
Having put us to death with His Law, God raises us to faith and life in Christ with His Gospel. Therefore standing on the threshold of Lent we look forward with expectation of the Coming Day when the transient nature of this world and our own declining dustiness will be taken up by the God of Grace who would not see us abandoned to the grave.
“I am the resurrection and the life” [says Jesus]. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Remember, O Man, that you are dust. From dust you have come. To dust you shall return. And by the Grace of God in Christ Jesus, from dust you shall rise! Let our eyes and faith fix upon Him and not be moved. For He has taken up our dustiness, died our death, and His Life is ours. This is the heritage of all those who believes in Him.
Let us pray:
God of all grace, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to bring life and immortality to light. We give you thanks that by his death he destroyed the power of death and by his resurrection opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Strengthen us in the confidence that because he lives we shall live also and that neither death nor life nor things present nor things to come will separate us from your love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now, and forever. Amen.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Heavenly Father you have graciously provided for your people by the establishment of the church, the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Protect and strengthen all those who put their hand to any good work in your church, Pastors ___________; Teachers and commissioned ministers ____________; the congregations of _____________ as well as the work of __________ District and __________________. Grant that, as it be your will, the words and actions of those who toil in your name witness faithfully to the Gospel by which we have been saved.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer.
God of all comfort, keep the weak and the infirm, the lonely and those in dispare under your caring wing. Especially do we remember ___________ and all those who are being persecuted on account of your Son, especially our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Haiti
Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hymn “Christ Is the World’s Redeemer”; LW271
Christ is the world’s Redeemer,
The lover of the pure,
The font of heavenly wisdom,
Our trust and hope secure,
The armor of his soldiers
The Lord of earth and sky,
Our health while we are living,
Our life when we shall die.
Christ has our host surrounded
With clouds of martyrs bright,
Who wave their palms in triumph
And fire us for the fight.
Then Christ the cross ascended
To save a world undone
And, suffering for sinful,
Our full redemption won.
Down in the realm of darkness
He lay, a captive bound,
But at the hour appointed
He rose, a victor crowned.
And now, to heaven ascended,
He sits upon the throne
Whence he had never departed,
His Father’s and his own.
Glory to God the Father,
The unbegotten One,
All honor be to Jesus,
His sole begotten Son;
And to the Holy Spirit,
The perfect Trinity,
Let all the worlds give answer,
Amen so let it be.
The Lord bless us, defend us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.