Waynedale United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

Feb. 18, 2015 Sermon

“Confession and Profession”
Psalm 51
Ted Jansen  February 18, 2015  Ash Wed
 

1.)        Ash Wednesday is the traditional beginning of Lent.  The ashes remind us that something has been lost.  Ashes are the result after a fire has burned something.  Ashes are a symbol of loss, of mourning; they remind us of grief and of change. 

            As we think about ashes today we come to a sober realization that we are all going to die.  A phrase that is used in funerals is the phrase ashes to ashes, dust to dust, earth to earth.  So, we are faced with the truth that we are all physically limited in this life.  We are mortals, with a beginning and an end. 

            We all have experienced the loss of life in some measure in our lives.  If the loss was very close we experienced deep grief, and perhaps are even experiencing that now. 

            So, we come to this moment aware of loss and grief.  

 

2.)        But as we come to Ash Wednesday thinking about death and loss, we come to focus on our soul, our spiritual lives. 

            I remind us that we will die spiritually if all we seek to rely on is our own selves.  Our souls need something other than self.   Our souls need a Savior.      

On Ash Wednesday we look at the life of Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.  The period of Lent is a time to focus each day on the ashes and what can come out of the ashes, if anything.      

            But I propose that we are a people who live the Gospel, the good news, and so we live each day of Lent with hope and the promise of new life.  Even as we put the sign of mortality on our heads we know that in our heart we are given eternal life.    

 

3.)        David was aware of his spiritual condition, the spiritual death that he was headed towards.  Listen to the preface to the words that were written in Psalm 51.  (These are from the Ryrie Study Bible, NIV)  “For the director of music.  A psalm of David.  When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” 

David had been caught in his sin with Bathsheba.  He had a sexual relationship with Bathsheba, who was married.  David tried to cover things up and make it go away.  But David’s problems would begin to multiply.  You can read more about this in 2 Samuel 11.  David messed up and realized that he moved far from God, from others and his self.  He is aware of his spiritual need for confession.    

His life circumstances remind me of a tractor pull.  The further you get from the starting place the more effort you have to expend as the weight on the sled the tractor is pulling moves toward the tractor.  At the end of the pull you are expending a lot of energy but moving very little because of the weight.   

 

4.)        What does a person think, feel, and experience when they go through spiritual death?  Psalm 51 reveals David’s heart and words and give us insights.  Listen to Psalm 51:1 – 9 and sense David’s heart and then his hope in Psalm 51:10 – 15.       

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict  and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

           

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.   Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

 

            We admit our spiritual death and hold on to the truth that God does have mercy, that God’s unfailing love is real, that God does forgive, that God does wash away our sins.  We focus on the Good News that God will create a pure and steadfast spirit in us and God will restore joy to us. 

            Wow, that seems impossible.  Can we be a people who can rise out of the ashes and have new life?        

 

5)         Do you know the story of the Jack Pine Tree?  This tree is a symbol of new life for each of us.  This tree was designed to live again after the ashes of a fire.   

The cones of the Jack Pine Tree have a resin that is released only when high temperatures are achieved.  I looked at some information on the internet about the tree.  I found out that there have been studies made of the various temperatures when the resin is softened and the seeds are released.  The temperature has to be really hot.  It is not after a hot August day when it reaches 105 degrees.  No, the temperature has to reach hundreds of degrees. 

When the temperate is several hundred degrees what happens?  You realize that the tree is burned up.  They did studies to determine that even in a very hot fire that would consume the entire tree the seed would survive.    

            So, when a fire burns the jack pine tree the cones release their seeds, because the resin softens, and the seeds are not affected by the high temperature.  After a fire all that is left on the floor of the forest are the ashes of the burnt trees.  Guess what these seeds like to grow in?  They thrive in the ashes and are able to root and begin to grow. 

            The Jack Pine Tree is unique tree.  Out of the ashes and fire, the tree’s loss, new life comes.  It is the design of the tree.  When it appears that its essence, its substance is sacrificed and destroyed all is lost.  That is precisely the moment when new life comes.  Out of the ashes come a new tree. 

 

6.)        We are designed to experience life, abundant life, through the one whose life was given on the tree.  Allow your life to be marked by the ashes tonight knowing that out of the ashes comes new life.  Let us hear the words that will be spoken to us as we receive the sign of the ashes.  “Repent and Believe the Gospel. 

            What needs to die tonight in your life?  Where do you need hope?  Let your heart face your death.  Let your soul realize that to walk in the footsteps of Jesus you will need to deny yourself so that new life can arise from your heart.