Endings and Beginnings

Life Notes—March 10, 2011 

He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, ’One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:2-4 

Yesterday marked the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period leading to Easter.  In our church Lent officially begins with an Ash Wednesday service (held last night).  The service ends with the imposing of ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead of participants.  The ashes are the burnt remains of the palm leaves used in last year’s Palm Sunday services, the Sunday which precedes Easter.  The act sort of book-ends the church year—the green, leafy palms by which we celebrate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem become the ashes reminding us of Christ’s death on a cross on Golgotha. 

The symbolism is visible and powerful.  Palm leaves: to celebrate new life and new beginnings.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem many of his followers expected him to overtake the Roman rulers of the day, believing his kingship was of the earth.  There was a fever-pitch excitement, hoping their years of oppression would finally come to an end. 

But the palm leaves turn brown and die.  They are burned and become ash.  Ashes symbolize death and endings.  When Jesus was captured and bound and beaten by church and Roman authorities, and when he was crucified, the hopes and dreams of his people died with him on that cross.  The ashes placed on our forehead remind us of that sad end. 

Lent is intended to be a time of study and reflection, a time to grasp more deeply the trial and crucifixion of Christ so we can better understand and more fully celebrate His resurrection on Easter.  The forty days of Lent remind us of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by the devil.  This was a time at the beginning of his ministry where he was tested and prepared for the challenges to come.  Lent is a time for us to prepare ourselves for our trials in life.  In the passage above, the devil tries to focus Jesus’ attention on his physical hunger.  Jesus responds with a spiritual focus.  The implication for us is that every physical need has a spiritual component and we need to attend to both.  As the new life of spring manifests around us, may we reflect on the new life within us, offered freely and perpetually through the grace of Christ. 

This Sunday Tom is preaching downtown and Mitch will be west.  Their sermon is “Cultivating Fruitfulness: Radical Hospitality.”  This will be the first in the all-church Lenten series.  Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall, traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Come begin, again, with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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