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Thursday, March 6, 2014

03052014 Ash Wednesday Sermon

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

We begin this series of Mid-Week Lenten messages at the one place we are at times brought to and for others come to on their own.  It is not like school, nor Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, nor is it where we buy something like Wal-Mart.  The place we begin our Lenten journey is simply the Baptismal Font.

When I was ordained here at Emmanuel, the Baptismal Font was one of the focal points that was extremely important in the service and that I took my responsibility within the congregation for the means of Grace found in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  I received at the font a shell, signifying the pouring of water over the head of the individual.  Yet it was not just water, it was Water connected with Word in the invocation of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that makes us co-heirs with all of mankind in the gift of Grace and Eternal Life.

At the beginning of the Rite of Holy Baptism, there is a set of instructions which not only tells what the Pastor and Congregation are to do, but also includes something more precious for all of us.  It is the story of salvation that is shared.  The story connects the person being baptized with all who have had the Water and Word poured over them for all eternity.  For some the importance may be mundane, unimportant or just ancient history, but clearly the importance is that this even occurred with Jesus Christ when He was baptized by John in the river Jordan.  When the story begins the connection of the Water and the nourishment we receive is tangible and clear.  As the water is poured into the font the story unfolds how we and all things are sustained by Water.  Here in Western Kansas this is especially true where water is such a precious commodity and its use either spells a crop or a lack there of.

Following the story we hear the connection with the flood that decimated the entire world and spared only Noah and his family.  The clear grace that was given to Noah, because of his faithfulness to listen to God in calling for him to build an ark connects with us even today.  Then the reminder of Israel being led by the pillar of cloud and fire to the Promised Land from slavery to freedom.  And finally the connection we have with Jesus Christ in His baptism and anointing with the Holy Spirit in the river Jordan.  This symbol of Water connected with Word is clear and tangible and enables us to understand our connection not only with each other in our Baptism, but with Jesus Christ and His Gospel of salvation found in His life, death and resurrection for all mankind.

But why the story, why the drama, why the reminder of history?  We hear and heed this, because within the story and the rite is the clear and manifest gift of grace offered for each and every one of us by Jesus Christ.  We need to be reminded of the gifts of grace offered to and for us through Jesus Christ.  These gifts we remember in the story and the water, because water is something we need not only on a daily basis, but need reminded of and pointed to of our salvation every single day.  For without Water connected with Word, in Jesus Christ, we would be lost for all eternity.  When we connect with that the ashes we place on our forehead tonight, this is our reminder that from dust we are made and to dust we shall return, but through our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, we have the promises of eternal life.  This is the promise that God made to us on Calvary with Jesus death, and which we are baptized into for all eternity. 

May we when we hear the story, remember the promise of grace and salvation and may we clearly be reminded that we are not only marked with the Cross of Christ in our baptism, but promised in our baptism that we are His.  And this promise is made for all of mankind, but especially including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this Ash Wednesday evening as we receive the ashes in the sign of the cross on our forehead.  AMEN.
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