This past Sunday, we wandered away from our passage for a few minutes to look at the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:41-46. It was the section about the final judgement, and in that section, Jesus compares those who will recieve eternal life with those who will receive eternal death: 

Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a foreigner and you did not welcome me, Naked and you did not clothe me, Sick and in prison and you did not visit me. 

A few verses later Jesus said, "'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life". This list, along with a few others found throughout the New Testament, can be described as deeds of death. They are the things we do or the things we do not do that when traced through to their end, lead to destruction and death. The Bible calls these things "sin". 

I bring all of this up because today is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the season of Lent, the 40 days that the church throughout her history has used to prepare for Easter Sunday. It is a season marked by repentance and renewal, a time to reorient our lives around the person and work of King Jesus by reminding ourselves of what we've been saved from, namely "the wages of sin, which is death".

Some of you might have grown up in traditions where you received ashes on Ash Wednesday. I have very clear memories of going to church before school, where a priest would mark my forehead in the shape of a cross with gritty ashes, and he would utter the words, "remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return".

And that is really the point of Ash Wednesday, to remind us of our own mortality. To remind us that death is real, and that it is coming for each and every one of us. And in remembering our death, we are reminded of the grace of God and the Good News of our salvation in the Resurrected King! New Testament scholar and Anglican minister, Esau McCaulley says that: 

Ash Wednesday calls us to remember death, and by calling us to remember death it calls us to remember what causes death: sin and rebellion. By forcing us to remember our sin, it helps us to realize that, at the bottom, our sins are lies about the true source of joy

This Ash Wednesday and over the course of this season of Lent, my prayer is that we would not run from the reality of our death, but that we would allow it to serve as a reminder of our sin and our desparate need for a Savior. Anglican Minister, Tish Harrison Warren says, "Don't foreget, we are dust. You and I and everyone we know will die. The stuff we live for is fleeting. Hold on to what is real". What is most real is the sacrificial love of Jesus displayed on a cross, and the Good News that one day death will be overturned completely, and we will cry out, "Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). 

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