Here's a first draft of my Ash Wednesday message. Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent.
Lent is a 40 day journey, a 40 day heart-cleaning. During Lent God calls us to notice what it is in our lives--not in the lives of other people--During Lent God calls us to notice what it is in OUR OWN lives--in my life and in yours that keeps us from experiencing the Love and Joy and Peace that God gives.
Two thousand years ago God the Father, creator and giver of all good--2,000 years ago God the Father sent his Son Jesus to be born among sinful human beings like you and me. Jesus then carried our sins in his body to the cross, where they were taken care of once and for all.
As long as we live in these bodies, however, and as long as we try to figure things out with our sinful and confused brains WE WILL KEEP PICKING UP SINS that need to be brought to the cross over and over again, because this really is a broken and evil and sin filled world.
There are lots of ways to talk about sins--there are as many ways to sin as there are people in the world! One way to talk about them in Christian history has been in terms of the "Seven Deadly Sins." I'm not sure why they are called "deadly." Every sin is deadly. But, still, the list of "Seven Deadly Sins" is a helpful way for us to see what there is in my life and in yours that needs to be brought to the cross.
Next week, when you come on Wednesday, we'll look at the sin of "Sloth." One of the dirty rags here in the front of the church is a symbol of sloth, and it's this one, this blue one. When people say they're "blue" it means they're sad and have no energy at all. When we don't think we can do anything we sin against the one who gives us our life! God wants us to trust him to bring us through those sad times. So, during Lent this year, we'll bring all the things we don't do but should do, all the relationships we leave un-repaired, all the issues we leave un-studied, all the work for God we leave undone--we bring it and leave it at the cross.
After that we'll look at the others: Purple pride -- purple is the color of royalty. Pride makes us want to run things, to manage things, to be "king" or "queen" instead of leaving management to God. Green is the color of envy. There is a kind of sick feeling we have when we realize that someone else has what we want. We get sick with jealousy and think everyone else has it better than we do. Anger - red. I have seen so much anger. And your anger--my anger--the way we get mad and hate each other--that does NOT do God's work (James 1:17).
All these things--our pride, our envy and jealousy, our anger - they need to die. They need to go to the cross with Jesus. Read through the stories of Jesus death and see how all these things were the sins that brought Jesus to the cross. And Jesus takes care of them there. When we bring them to Jesus, he takes them and they die.
Let's see what else we have. Filthy fuchsia -- there's an out of control color. God gives us the gift of our sexuality to bind a man and a woman together for life, to make a family. Outside marriage sexual relationships run wild and we sin against our own bodies. Yellow--the color of gold--it stands for greed--wanting and using money for ourselves. And orange, a fall color, a color of the harvest--this is for gluttony--eating and eating not for good, but more than what is good. All these sins--these sins that harm us and others--they need to go to the cross too.
So that's what we'll do during Lent. We'll examine our lives. There are many more sins--fear, gossip, stealing, not honoring parents, not loving God above all things--but we'll use these seven during Lent. Every sin is a barrier--sin causes a separation between ourselves and the life God wants for us--a separation between ourselves and God. So we take those sins and bring them to the cross.
And when we bring them, the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control God wants to give us--those things can flow in our lives, and we will give glory to God who takes our sins and dies in our place, in your place, in my place, carrying all our sins in his body--and then, on the third day, rising and giving new life.