In a vivid reminder, the cross is smeared across the forehead as the words, ” remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” are spoken over you. And you walk away with the stain …the stain of the cross emblazoned right up front for all to see. My friend tried to wipe it off with a tissue– to no avail. No, this would need more to fully remove the stain.
It’s literally “ever before you” –embarrassingly so. You can’t ignore it. It’s just as they say…an “imposition of ashes.” And the imposition–the burden– is felt in a very tangible way.
And I thank God even more for helping me put words to my thoughts by giving David this cry of the heart in Psalm 51 that now seems so personal … so real …
“Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned…”
from Psalm 51 (NLT)
And there is no washing without the cross. And in a seemingly interesting twist, the life-giving blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross is the only way to clean up the mess we’ve made. There’s no other way — “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9 NLT) Jesus came “to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.”
And the shape of the cross smeared across my forehead is a reminder that my sin and its stain has been washed off at the cross by Jesus Christ–cleansed by His blood, once and for all. My debt is paid…the guilt of my sin erased.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me…
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.”
from Psalm 51 NLT
And it seems God doesn’t want our sacrifices or even our religious ceremonies as much as He just wants us …the real us…just as we are.
“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
from Psalm 51 NLT
And my prayer of response is simple …Jesus, reign over me and wash me from my sin and the guilt of it all and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Let me see myself in light of Your righteousness and not in the light of my own filth. You bore my sin and shame on the cross once and for all and said, “It is finished.” Let me walk in Your finished work and wear Your righteousness with a humble, thankful heart.
Just a reminder: Starting the week of March 5, 2017, join us as we begin our weekly Journey Through the Season of Lent — reading through Bread and Wine~Readings for Lent and Easter, by Plough Publishers. I’ll be sharing the links to others who are joining in and All are welcome!
You don’t have to read the book to join in but click HERE if you’d like to order your own copy.
Special thanks again to St. Andrews Anglican Church in Madison, Alabama for their warm hospitality in sharing their journey with us again this year.