Ash Wednesday: A Time to Reflect and Prepare
- 2004 11 Feb
46 Days Until Easter: Ash Wednesday
"Now a man was sick, Lazarus, from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.... So the sisters sent a message to [Jesus]: "Lord, the one You love is sick." When Jesus heard it, He said, "This sickness will not end in death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
John 11:1, 3-4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Today is Ash Wednesday-a solemn reminder that we are upon this earth for only a very short time. For as Longfellow reminds us, "'Dust thou art, to dust returnest,' was not spoken of the soul." Our days are relatively few, our hurried Easters are always piling up behind us. And yet we still have so many sins to conquer. So many failures yet to amend. So many times when the love of our dying Christ fails to rouse us to grateful obedience.
In the passage above, Lazarus is sick. Be it cancer or the common cold, sickness is never pleasant. But there is a wasting sickness in the human heart that causes it to grow stony. Such hardness smothers the stirring of spiritual desire. Both physical and spiritual sicknesses can leave us lonely, in need of someone to bring the healing balm of help and encouragement.
Yet sometimes, painful as it is, sickness is what we need most. We need to face the encroaching spectre of our future death to jar us from our hypnotic presumptions. The facing of our "temporariness" awakes us to our dependence on that life we find only in Jesus.
So Christ came to Lazarus, to heal him from something much more ominous than sickness: he came to rescue him from death. Jesus knew what Lazarus could not have guessed-that Lazarus was going to die, but only temporarily. Jesus knew that Lazarus would come back from the dead. And the furor that erupted around his resurrection would catapult Jesus to the very center of an uproar during the last turbulent weeks of his life.
What is before you on this Ash Wednesday? Is it the pain of your own sin? The ache of some ongoing trial? Does it look like the events in your near future are gathered about you like a covey of demons threatening to wipe out your happiness?
Remember what Jesus said of Lazarus' sickness. Your circumstances become the very occasion that God wants to use to glorify himself. Our small affairs and gut-wrenching problems are often just potential pints of praise. Ash Wednesday prefaces the Easter season with the suggestion that we are temporary. Easter concludes the season with a reminder that "temporary" is a word missing from God's vocabulary.
Lord, help me to face every storm-even the blinding cloud of my own sinfulness-with the resolution that you are present in the thunder and the roaring, the tossing and the turning. Come craft Christlikeness from my unreliable heart. Take my mortality and dress it in immortality.
(For additional Bible reading, see Psalm 34:17-19)
Adapted from "The Christ of Easter: Readings for the Season of Resurrection" by Calvin Miller © 2004 by Broadman & Holman Publishers. Used by special permission of Broadman & Holman Publishers. For any other use, please contact Broadman & Holman Publishers for permission. All rights reserved.