This is an excerpt from the Ash Wednesday sermon Stephen shared at the Hopwood Christian Church. It is well worth taking the time to read.
Lent is not about becoming the best me I can be. We don’t just set down that which is weighing on us, we have to pick up something too.
In his fantastical vision of living creatures and dragons, of angels with trumpets and elders with crowns, John has a curious phrase. As he is describing the people of God, the people who have been marked as God’s own, he says that “these follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev 14:4). The Lamb he speaks of, the one who was slain and now lives and rules holding the keys to death, is Jesus. If you want to know who the people of God are, then look who is following Jesus. During Lent we set our compass once again, and follow Jesus. That is the theme of our book of Lenten reflections—“Walking with Jesus.” As we walk with Jesus, we go to some strange places.
We go into the wilderness for forty days; we walk into synagogues, proclaiming jubilee, we sleep on boats and eat fish sandwiches on hillsides. We eat at the table of teachers of Israel, and with sinners and tax collectors. But if we follow Jesus long enough, we’ll eventually make it to Jerusalem. And as the palm branches that were so triumphal raised begin to turn brown and wither, we will make our way to a forsaken hill. And there we will die with Jesus. Walking with Jesus means journeying toward our deaths. It means carrying our own crosses.
Our mourning in ashes tonight is not only a mourning over our sin, it is also a mourning over our impending deaths—over the inevitable end of walking with Jesus. But because this death is a sharing in the death of Jesus, it is also a joy. For we know that God will raise us up, as he raised up Jesus.
For the full text of the sermon go to Logos & Ekklesia