Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday 2013: Rescued from the Rubble[1]
February 13, 2013

Text: Amos 1:1-2 (ESV): “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.  And he said: ‘The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.’”

            The Word of the LORD is earthshaking.  The LORD roars from Zion, from His Church, and nothing can stand against it.  For His is a Word that kills and makes alive.  His is a Word of death and resurrection.  His Word upsets the old order of things in the fallen creation.  It upsets you in your sinful flesh.  Indeed, it kills you by the roar of God’s Law, that God Himself might bring you to new life by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior. 
            There was literally a huge earthquake that rocked the Mediterranean world two years after the Word of the LORD came to Amos.  He doesn’t just call it an earthquake.  He calls it the earthquake.  There are many earthquakes, but this one was a defining event in world history.  The Prophet Zechariah speaks of this same earthquake, “the earthquake in the days of Uzziah” (Zech. 14:5), and archeological evidence in Hazor of Galilee confirms the biblical account.  What does God accomplish by such an earthquake?  Well, this, like all natural or man-made disasters, is a call to repentance, as our Lord Jesus tells us.  When He was asked about Pilate’s slaughter of some Galileans, He responded, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5).  Well, so much for the theology of Pat Robertson (he’s a false teacher, by the way.  Don’t listen to him).  Every disaster, every tragedy is a call for all of us to repent, because in our sinfulness, we all deserve to perish in such a tragedy.  It happened to them, it could happen to you.  Repent.  But there’s also something else going on, specifically with earthquakes.  Earthquakes in the Scriptures often indicate the presence of Almighty God.  We’ve encountered this in our study of Revelation.  The earth quakes in reverence and fear of its Creator and the Judge of all mankind.  THE earthquake, the historical event referenced in our text, points to a theological reality.  Almighty God is present in His Word.  Thus the Word is powerful.  It kills in judgment and makes alive in mercy.  Which is to say, repentance is not something you do within yourself by your own efforts.  It is something the LORD does to you by His Word.  The LORD roars.  He roars in His Word, and the Word of the LORD is earthshaking.  It shakes you to your very core.
            It is that Word that we encounter tonight, and in encountering the Word, we encounter the living God.  There is only one response possible for the sinner in the presence of Almighty God.  Repent.  Quake.  Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Confess your sins.  This night is a night of repentance.  God’s Word shakes you up and exposes your brokenness, your idolatry, your covetousness, your lust.  It gets right to the heart of things, to your heart, which is full of impurity, murder, and adultery.  You have not feared, loved, and trusted your God above all things.  You have not loved your neighbor as yourself.  Tonight we mourn our sin in sackcloth and ashes.  Ashes will mark your forehead tonight with the reminder that dust you are, and to dust you shall return.  The wages of sin is death.  You have offended your Creator.  You have rejected your God.  You are a sinner.  Yet those ashes will be traced upon you in the sign of the holy cross.  You have been redeemed.  The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins.  He made the payment for your iniquity.  He shed His blood for your cleansing.  Almighty God took on flesh to atone for you, because you could not.  And on that Good Friday, as God hung upon the wood, the earth shook.  The rocks split.  The graves could not contain the bodies of the faithful who rose and went and testified.  The death of Jesus Christ was an earthshaking event.  God is present there on the cross, in judgment and mercy, judgment against the innocent Son, mercy on all of sinful mankind, eternal life for all who believe in Him.  And then there was the big aftershock.  Sunday morning, there was a great earthquake.  Angels rolled the stone away to reveal an empty tomb.  Christ is risen.  That is the reality which continues to shake the world everywhere the Word is preached.  It shakes you to your core.  The LORD roars from Zion, His Church.  It is nothing less than your death and resurrection.
            You’re a wreck.  You know that.  Your house of cards has fallen in upon you.  You’re trapped.  You’re helpless.  You’re dead.  But there’s good news.  The Lord Jesus comes as Savior.  He comes to rescue you from the rubble that is your life, that is your sinful flesh.  How does He do it?  By dying for you.  By stretching out His hands to be nailed to the cross for you.  He rescues you by His blood shed for you and given to you.  By His blood He frees you, restores you, heals you.  He redeems you.  You belong to Him.  And that ash on your forehead will wash off in the sink tonight.  It cannot cling to you.  Because the earthshaking reality is that Jesus Christ has taken away your sin.  And you are righteous.  He has spoken it so.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[1] The theme and many of the ideas in this sermon come from R. Reed Lessing, Restore the Roar (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012).


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