Written by Sarah Olson
Each year, just as the promises of springtime and new life begin to stir around us, Ash Wednesday arrives, bringing with it the sobering invitation to journey once again with Jesus to the cross. It’s a meeting of opposites: life and death.
The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our own mortality – that, on this side of Heaven, all things are temporary. This world and all that’s within it, our lives and careers and achievements, even nature itself… all are subject to the effects of sin, death and decay.
It feels easy to acknowledge that the world is not as it should be. Yet, I admit that too often I blame all that is wrong in the world on things that are outside my own sphere of influence, as though surely I couldn’t be contributing to what’s broken or sinful or wrong in my life, relationships or community. Though, if I’m being honest, I know this isn’t true.
Ash Wednesday reminds me that I am a poor, miserable sinner – incapable of redeeming myself with right thoughts, words or actions. I cannot be “good enough” or save myself by my own merit, and therefore, I am part of the problem. And this is what we contemplate today – that, as Paul writes in Romans 6, the wages of sin is death.
Psalm 51’s familiar words come to mind, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51:1
Even in light of the harsh truth, all is not lost. God Almighty in his infinite love sent us a deliverer, a redeemer, one who would save us from ourselves. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we experience the abundant mercy of God.
In “Thy Mercy, My God,” John Stocker writes the following:
“Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.”
I pray that as we begin this season of Lent, we create space and time to pause and reflect on both our sin and God’s abundant mercy toward us. Let us not forget our desperate need for the Savior who has come to redeem, and will come again to fully restore, all that is broken. Because of His great mercy, we find life and joy – even within the reminder that we are dust and to dust we will return.
Lord God, we need you. Have mercy on us. Keep our eyes fixed on you in this season.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit.
Come, Lord Jesus.
[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKfbyXFthus” title=”Thy Mercy, My God // Sandra McCracken”]