Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Ash Wednesday Message Notes

This year I was privileged to preach the Ash Wednesday message during the community service @ 7 pm.

I was out of commission for two days and this morning I received an e-mail asking to post the notes that I used to preach the message.

I am posting ROUGH notes; I am sure that there are misspellings and certain “asherisms,” but you will get the gist of what was said…

Thanx for asking

 

><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><>

 

Ryan Bingham (a character in the movie Up In The Air played by George Clooney) asked a question, “How much does your life weigh?”

Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is about figuring out what exactly our lives weigh, it is a season that calls us to think about the content and context of our lives and about things that take us away from abundant lives that Jesus envisions for us.

(Transition to The Room)   Adapted from The Room by Joshua Harris

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in a room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in old-fashioned libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, {} stretching from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different labels.

As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that labeled “Girls I Have Liked.”  I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, after realizing that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.  This lifeless room with its small file boxes cataloged my life, in such a detail that my memory couldn’t match it. {}{} A sense of wonder and curiosity stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. {}{} Some brought joy and sweet memories;  others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A box labeled “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I have betrayed.” Titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird: “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comforts I have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed at.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve yelled at my cousins.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents,” “Gestures I made while driving.

The content of boxes was surprising. Most boxes had many more cards than I expected. Other boxes had fewer than I hoped. {}{} I was overwhelmed by the sheer complexity, volume and weight of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards?

But each card confirmed the truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each card, no matter how mundane, was signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “TV Shows I have watched” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. In that box, the cards were packed tightly, and yet after 2 or 3 yards, I HADN’T found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, {} not so much by the quality of shows {} but more by the vast time I knew that this file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. {} I shuddered at its detailed content. {} I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke within me. One thought dominated my mind: no one  NO ONE  must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy this catalog! In insane frenzy I yanked one file box out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card.

I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw another box; the title was “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.”

The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than 3 inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained easily. Then the tears came. I began to weep… sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and reverberated through every fiber of my body.

I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of embarrassment,  I cried out of the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and bury the key in the deepest part of the ocean when no one would find it.

But then as I wiped the tears away, I saw Jesus.  Jesus? What was Jesus doing here? {}{} No, please not Him and not here… Oh God, anyone but Jesus… please… {}{} I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face,  I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every card…

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with love, pity  and understanding in His eyes. There was no anger in his eyes; I did not feel patronized or inferior. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word.

He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files.

Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

NO! I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was,” NO! NO!” as I pulled the card from Him.  His name shouldn’t be on these cards! But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back.

He smiled a sad smile  and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on the door.

There are still cards to be written…

Everyone of us still has cards to be written. Although everyone of us still has cards to be written, we know that God did not create us to grovel in the grime of our sin. We know that Jesus came so that God could live among us here on Earth and so that the Holy Spirit could guide our lives and so that we could be instruments of God’s Love and Grace.

May this Lenten season bring each of us closer to God.

{Transition to Ashes}

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: