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Ash Wednesday, 2013

Ash Wednesday
Scripture readings:
Old Testament:  Joel 2:12-19
Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
February 13, 2013

Christ, the Savior
1 John 4:14

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
1 John 4:14
    And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

    Today we begin Lent. Lent is more than just a time to do things differently, although we will, if you notice there will be things done differently in the liturgy of the church and other church practices. Lent is more than just a time to fast or to give up something, although that can be a good practice, with a long standing tradition behind it in Christianity. Lent is more than just a sad time to be sorry about all our sins and upset that we can never seem to do any better. Lent -- like all the seasons of the church year, like every other day of the year – Lent is a time for us to think of Jesus.
            This Lent on Wednesdays we will be thinking of Jesus by using these titles that you see hanging around in the sanctuary. Each Wednesday evening we will hear a passage from the Passion of our Lord Jesus and we will then meditate on one of these titles that describe who Jesus is and what He does for us.
Savior, Servant, Son, Prophet, Priest and King.
            Jesus is all of those.  Those words describe who He is and what He does for us. For us – is a key phrase there.
            How we call someone, depends on who they are to us. There are very few people in this country who call Obama, “Barak”.  We refer to him as President Obama. Those given the opportunity to speak to him, address him as Mr. President.
            The same with Governor Brandstad or Senator Grassley, or my dentist, Dr. Smith, the titles by which we call them, describe their role for us.
            The point is that these words, these titles that we have for Jesus are good in showing us what Jesus is to us.
            Tonight we start with Savior. That is what we, the baptized know Him as.
            The world will know Him on the last day as the Judge who comes for all the living and all the dead.
            The scoffers know Him as a man of his times, perhaps he contributed a lot to this planet for a while, but he’s becoming less and less significant in this new world.
            There may be some who think of Him as a difficult boss – a demanding slave driver – whom they can never hope to please.
            But we who have been baptized into Christ know Him as our Savior.
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6
We the baptized can say that everyday. When we hear the Lord’s word, when we eat at His table here,”Now is the day of salvation.” On holy days like today or on mundane days like tomorrow; when we go about our daily routines with comforting trust that our Savior goes with us, we can say, “Now is the day of salvation.”
Tonight, let’s get this Lenten season off right.          
            The prayers and Scripture readings for Ash Wednesday remind us what our purpose here tonight is:  repentance. The Lord calls us to that, as in our Old Testament reading from Joel:    "Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; [Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
            Lent is a season of repentance; a time for us to repent.
Hear it again, “Repent!”
Not Repent!, so you don’t get caught.
Not Repent!, so you can get the Lord off your back.
Not Repent!, merely to improve yourself. Our religion is not about mere self-improvement. Our religion is Life. Which, come to think of it, that’s another title of Jesus for us.  He says, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. There’s so many titles for Jesus, we won’t have time this time around for them all.
            Martin Luther, started his famous 95 theses, with this first one Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said do penance, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
            As you listen to the word of God, it will lead you to that life of repentance. True repentance. And true repentance is not just regret and remorse, wishing that you hadn’t messed up that badly.
            True repentance includes two things: both sorrow for our sin and trust in our Savior.
            The reason to repent is so you will trust in your Savior.
            The reason to put black on today, is to build in us that desire for the glorious white and lilies of Easter.
            The reason to mourn, says God in Joel’s reading, is so that you will turn to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation.
            True repentance leads us to an accurate assessment of our sinful actions, words and deeds. By prayerfully going through the ten commandments we see and hear where we have fallen short of the will of God. But then True repentance for us who call Jesus, Savior, leads us to the cross and the comfort of knowing that there is where our sins go, onto His beaten shoulders, into His holy wounds.

            Each week as we meditate on each of these words, my hope is that the one word at a time will stick in your minds and in your hearts for a few days. Think on it in the days following these services. Mention it in your prayers. Call on Jesus with these words.
            Like this, “Dear Jesus, thank you for saving me by your suffering and death on the cross. I admit, that I need saving. Thank you for being my Savior.
            Now Savior, open my eyes, to show me things the way you see them.
            Show me my problems. My sins, they are a problem, worth your suffering over.
            Show me your goodness, your righteousness, worth seeking, worth going out of the way for.

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